Thirty-one Ukrainian children abducted and then deported to Russia or occupied Ukrainian territories were reunited with their families on April 8.
This development comes as Russia is under increased scrutiny for the practice of depriving Ukrainian children of their parental rights. Kremlin autocrat Vladimir Putin and his children’s human rights commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, have been charged for war crimes by the Hague-based International Criminal Court.
Due to the context, the latest mission to bring back the kidnapped children was “difficult,” tweeted Mykola Kuleba, the Ukrainian children’s rights ombudsman under President Volodmyr Zelenskyy.
Today, we welcome home 31 Ukrainian children who were abducted by Russians from occupied territories. This was the most challenging of all previous rescue missions due to Russia's large-scale information campaign ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/4eGMB5it15— Mykola Kuleba (@MykolaKuleba) April 8, 2023
“Despite everything, our team persevered to reunite these children with their families. Unfortunately, we also mourn the loss of a grandmother who passed away due to the stress of the situation,” he said on his Twitter feed. “We will continue working tirelessly to bring every Ukrainian child home.”
There are nearly 20,000 confirmed cases of Russia having abducted Ukrainian children since Feb. 24, 2022 when Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of the country, said Serhiy Koledov, the Ukrainian consulate general in the U.S. city of Chicago.
Less than 400 children have since been reunited with their families, Ukrainian Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights and Child Rehabilitation Daria Herasymchuk has said.
An additional 501 children have been killed since February 2022, a United Nations’ reported said earlier this month.
That number, the UN, says, is modest and doesn’t reflect the actual number of children killed.
In March, the Vienna-based Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) triggered the “Moscow Mechanism” in its statute to establish “an expert mission to examine allegations of the forced transfer of children in those parts of Ukraine’s territory temporarily controlled or occupied by Russia, as well as allegations that Ukraine’s children have been deported to the Russian Federation.
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