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Ukraine repatriates another teenager illegally deported to Russia

17-year-old Oleksandr illegally displaced from Russian-occupied Mariupol to Moscow region in April 2022, recently returned home thanks to civil society and government efforts.
Ruins of Mariupol, Donetsk Oblast, in 2022. The city was almost completely destroyed by Russia in the early months of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Photo: azov.org.ua
Ukraine repatriates another teenager illegally deported to Russia

A 17-year-old Ukrainian boy named Oleksandr has returned to his hometown of Kyiv after being illegally displaced to Russia along with 30 other children back in April 2022 from Mariupol, Donetsk Oblast, during the fierce battle for the city. Civil society advocacy efforts paired with collaboration from Ukraine’s government facilitated Oleksandr’s homecoming just before the arrival of the year 2023.

According to Ukraine’s Ministry of Reintegration, Oleksandr was part of a group of 31 children – most of them orphans or deprived of parental care – who were taken out of the Russian-occupied part of Mariupol and brought to Russia’s Moscow Oblast against their will. A civil society activist keeping track of displaced Ukrainian children contacted the Ministry’s Crisis Response Department ahead of New Year’s regarding Oleksandr’s situation.

Oleksandr is the fifth child from the group of 31 displaced from Mariupol known to have successfully come back to Ukraine thanks to repatriation efforts. Civil society actors have been partnering with Ukrainian authorities to return illegally displaced citizens like Oleksandr, though significant work remains in addressing the pressing issue.

Russia has been accused of systematic forced displacements and deportations of Ukrainian citizens from occupied areas to Russia in breach of international law.

Earlier, Ukrainian Ombudsperson Dmytro Lubinets stated that the officially confirmed number of Ukrainian children deported by Russia now stands at over 19,540. However, the actual figures are supposed to be much higher.

Previously, Russia’s Children Ombudsman Maria Lvova-Belova stated that Russia “evacuated” some 4.8 million citizens from Ukraine in 2022, including more than 700,000 Ukrainian minors.

In March 2023, The International Criminal Court in The Hague issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and for Lvova-Belova, concerning their involvement in the forced deportation of children.

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