The House Quietly Recognizes Russia’s Ukraine War as Genocide. Now What?

The House Quietly Recognizes Russia’s Ukraine War as Genocide. Now What?

Only a victory will give Ukraine an upper hand in any possible peace negotiations.


On Tuesday, March 19, the House of Representatives passed Res. 149, “Condemning the illegal abduction and forcible transfer of children from Ukraine to the Russian Federation.” This event drew little attention beyond the community of advocates working on the issue.

The resolution received vast bipartisan support by passing under suspension with 390 votes in favor due to its non-binding nature and indisputable evidence of the crime. Yet it is the first document agreed upon in Congress recognizing Russian actions against Ukraine as an act of genocide. At the same time, the House remains in a deadlock in approving further military aid for Ukraine’s war effort.


This resolution puts the House in an awkward position of enabling the crime they have condemned. If the House agrees that “the Russian Federation is attempting to wipe out a generation of Ukrainian children,” then how can the same House withhold aid to the nation experiencing such atrocity?

After the international community failed to adequately respond to genocides committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, it adopted “The Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) norm. This obliges states to prevent and stop genocide against their people and the international community to “encourage and help states to exercise this responsibility.” According to this norm, every state bears responsibility for preventing and stopping acts of genocide, regardless of where it occurs.

Yet, in the case of the abduction of Ukrainian children, the evidence has been gathered and presented by all relevant agencies, including the UN. Based on their report, multiple testimonies of Ukrainian children, data collected by the Ukrainian authorities, and following the Parliamentary Assembly for the Council of Europe’s (PACE) resolution on the deportation and forcible transfer of Ukrainian children, the House has recognized the obvious. What excuse does it have not to help Ukraine now?

In February, U.S.-based non-profit Razom for Ukraine organized screenings of The Uprooted—a documentary by the Kyiv Independent about the abduction of Ukrainian children by Russia. The team of reporters, as well as one of the heroes of the documentary, toured five American cities—New York, Washington, D.C., Houston, Austin, and Phoenix—exposing the evidence of genocide to almost 500 Americans. In each city, the delegation faced the same question from the audience: What can we do to return abducted children?

The capabilities of regular Americans to help the return of deported children are limited but not non-existent: the return of stolen children is not as much a question of money or resources but rather will.

Passing Res. 149 is one thing that Congress can do to solve this troubling issue. It is a significant step towards the solution that increases awareness about the problem and enables the appropriate agencies to allocate resources to solve it. However, we must not give into the illusion that the passage of a piece of legislation will suddenly force Russia to return thousands of children.

So, what can help return abducted Ukrainian children? Ironically, it is something that the House is currently withholding—humanitarian and military aid. Seemingly unrelated questions of weapons and deported children are actually directly intertwined.

Without the right quantity and quality of armaments, Ukraine cannot launch a full counter-offense and liberate its now-occupied territories. The liberation of Ukraine is crucial to prevent abductions of children that occur only in the occupied territories of Ukraine. Ukrainian military advances would put pressure on Putin to negotiate and start returning stolen children.

Right now, the best Ukraine can do is negotiate individual cases of repatriation of children whose location we know of or help its citizens execute risky returns themselves. But with the current pace of the returns (out of 20,000 abducted children, only 388 have been returned), it will take fifty years to return all the deported kids. Complete victory would give Ukraine an upper hand in any possible peace negotiations and the ability to demand from Putin the safe return of all abducted children—the 20,000 we know of and the possibly hundreds of thousands more yet unaccounted for.

Except for nine representatives of the GOP's Far Right who demonstrated their steadfast belief in family values by voting against the recognition of manifest child abuse, the supporters of the resolution came from all sides of the political spectrum. The issue of abducted children has united the House in a way very few things could.

What the House needs to realize is that no children will return to their homes if Ukraine does not receive the aid it needs for victory. Any attempt to help abducted Ukrainian children while looking for yet another excuse to delay the vote on military assistance would be akin to applying a band-aid to a broken leg. If we want our letter of the law to mean something, we should start practicing what we preach—appreciation for family values starts with actual actions taken to help children. 

Katya Pavlevych is an Advocacy Communications Team Member for Razom for Ukraine. Follow her on X: @Kpavlevych.

Image: Ruslan Lytvyn /