President Alar Karis laid a Sipsik doll, a beloved Estonian literature character, at the memorial to children killed in war during a visit to Ukraine on Thursday.
"I visited the saddest memorial I´ve ever seen, the memorial room in Kyiv honoring children lost in war. On International Children's Day, it is chilling to hear that again children fell victim to a rocket attack. Our hearts go out to all children robbed of their games and toys," Karis wrote on social media after his visit.
President Karis opened the International Children's Day Forum "Family for Every Child" organized by First Lady Olena Zelenska during his visit.
"For 15 months now, the daily lives of Ukrainian children have been dominated by Russia's monstrous aggression. Countless air strikes have destroyed schools and kindergartens and taken the lives of hundreds of children and the future of hundreds of thousands," Karis said.
"All wars rob children of their future and are therefore always against children. International Children's Day could be a joyous celebration of music and games anywhere in the world, but the war in Ukraine is taking the party atmosphere away."
I visited the saddest memorial I´ve ever seen, the memorial room in Kyiv honouring children lost in war. On International Children's Day, it is chilling to hear that again children fell victim to a rocket attack. Our hearts go out to all children robbed of their games and toys.— Alar Karis (@AlarKaris) June 1, 2023
The president said every effort needs to be made to bring back Ukrainian children separated and deported to Russia. He said the act is one of the characteristics of genocide.
Almost 10,000 Ukrainian children are living and attending kindergarten or school in Estonia, having fled to the country with their families, Karis said.
In his speech, he highlighted the story of one girl, Masha, who lived in Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv that was occupied by Russian forces at the start of the full-scale invasion.
She still experiences panic attacks and misses her father, Karis said.
"According to Masha, her childhood ended the day the war started. And the hardest thing for refugees is knowing that they will never get back the life they had before the war. Masha is happy in Estonia, but she feels she has no right to be when so many children in Ukraine are suffering," the president said.
Editor: Helen Wright