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Russia deported 20,000 Ukrainian children, including 4,500 orphans – official

Ukrainian children in a camp for deportees in Bezimenne, Doentsk Oblast. March 2023. (Photo:
Russia deported 20,000 Ukrainian children, including 4,500 orphans – official

Since the commencement of the full-scale war, Russia has deported at least 20,000 children, with over 4,500 having orphaned status or being deprived of parental care. This was stated by Irina Vereshchuk, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister for the Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories, during a briefing at the conference “UA War. Unsung Lullaby,” Ukfinform reported.

Vereshchuk, in her address, was quoted as stating, “At least 20,000 children have already been identified, several dozens are still waiting to be found and returned. Specifically, we have to return over 4,500 status children (those who have the status of orphans or a child deprived of parental care).”

The official called on the Russian Federation to provide Ukraine with lists and return the abducted Ukrainian children, and on the international community to develop an effective mechanism “that should be applied to Russia if it refuses to hand over children to us in the near future.”

In her address, the Deputy Prime Minister mentioned that the government is currently considering evacuating the orphaned children abroad. In one recent operation, 600 children were evacuated from the combat zone to Austria, Switzerland, Poland, and Türkiye. These efforts are part of an ongoing attempt to safeguard and protect Ukrainian children amidst the ongoing war conditions.

A disturbing practice noted by Vereshchuk involved the forced identity changes of deported Ukrainian children in Russia. She pointed out that changes to their names, surnames, and birth dates are being made, a tactic seemingly designed to erase their Ukrainian heritage and identity. This violation, among others, illustrates the magnitude of the crisis.

Besides the issue of deportations to Russia, Ukraine is also investigating the deportation of children to Belarus. The opposition recently stated that over 2,000 Ukrainian children are currently in special camps, raising serious concerns about their safety and living conditions.

On 17 March 2023, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova, alleging they are guilty of the war crime of unlawful deportation and transfer of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia.

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