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​​Ukrainian NGO repatriates six more children from Russian occupation

Save Ukraine returned 290 children from Ukraine’s Russian-occupied territories in total, while the official number of illegally deported children stands at 19,546, representing only the documented cases.
Ukrainians returned home from occupied territories
Ukrainians returned from Russia-occupied territories walk wrapped in Ukrainian flags. Source: Save Ukraine
​​Ukrainian NGO repatriates six more children from Russian occupation

Save Ukraine, a Ukrainian charitable organization, successfully returned six more Ukrainian children and their families from Russian-occupied areas of the country.

Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, Ukraine confirmed the illegal deportation of 19,546 children, however, the actual number is likely much higher because Russia claimed to “evacuate” 4.8 million individuals from Ukraine in 2022, including over 700,000 minors.

While Russia conducts these illegal activities the Ukrainian NGO Save Ukraine has already managed to return 290 children from Russian occupation. Under the disguise of evacuations and adoptions, Russia abducts children from Ukraine and places them with foster families, changing their names and surnames.

Stories of survivors

Save Ukraine told stories of two families they helped to rescue. Their names have been changed for security purposes.

“Marina met the beginning of a full-scale invasion while on maternity leave with one-year-old Sofiika in her arms. The first months were the most difficult for the family because, against the background of enormous stress, the daughter and mother could neither eat nor sleep. Russian [fighter jets] flew over the village at the level of power lines,” Save Ukraine wrote. 

The family faced more hardships and challenges when Russians began repeated searches and interrogations. They forced them to acquire Russian passports prohibiting Ukrainians to cross Russian checkpoints without these documents. 

“Olena and her sons lived 10 km from the front line. The woman remembers that morning, 24 February, very well. She went out on the porch in her nightgown and heard explosions — she was scared. The woman woke up the boys and hid with them in a barn for several days from shelling. After a week, the village was completely occupied. They didn’t go anywhere for two months and went to the city for the first time only at the end of April to buy groceries,” according to Save Ukraine. 

Olena with her sons decided to leave their home after the FSB Russian security service’s officers interrogated them and forced her to send children to study in a Russian school. 

Russia tries to wipe out identity of abducted Ukrainian children

According to earlier reports, Ukrainian children in Russian-occupied territories were forced to wrap themselves in Russian flags during classes at school. The CEO of Save Ukraine, Mykola Kuleba, noted that this act was part of a broader coercion by Russian forces, who also threatened the children’s families with eviction and deportation.

Ukraine’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Daria Herasymchuk, also stated that Russia uses fake medical diagnoses among other methods to abduct Ukrainian children. These methods reportedly include creating hazardous living conditions and forcibly transferring children for “vacations” in Russia from which they do not return. 

In 2023, The International Criminal Court in The Hague issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Commissioner for Children’s Affairs Maria Lvova-Belova on suspicion of illegally deporting Ukrainian children from occupied territories to Russia.

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