Over 30 children have finally been reunited with their families in Ukraine after an extensive rescue mission to bring them back from Russia. These children were taken from occupied areas during the war, which Kyiv condemns as illegal deportations. Moscow denies these allegations and insists that the children were transported to safer locations.
The fifth rescue mission is nearing completion, and it is the most significant one to date, according to Mykola Kuleba, founder of the Save Ukraine humanitarian organization. The group assisted the Ukrainian relatives of the children taken to Russia with logistics, transport, and planning needed to embark on a long journey to fetch their children and bring them back home.
However, the reunion was not without tragedy. A grandmother who was due to reunite with two of her grandchildren died suddenly on the trip, and the children had to remain in Russia. Kuleba told a media briefing in Kyiv that all the children brought back to Ukraine by Save Ukraine had said that no one in Russia was trying to find their parents in Ukraine.
Kuleba further explained that some of the children had been living in horrendous conditions. Some children reported changing their location five times in five months, and some claimed they were living with rats and cockroaches. Russians called the stays summer camps, but they were located in occupied parts of Ukraine’s Kharkiv and Kherson regions.
Three children, two boys and a girl, were present at the media briefing in Kyiv. Save Ukraine reported that they were returned to Ukraine on a previous rescue mission last month that returned 18 children in total. These three children claimed they had been separated from their parents who were pressured by Russian authorities to send their children to summer camps in occupied parts of Kherson and Kharkiv regions.
The International Criminal Court recently issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s children’s rights commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, accusing them of abducting children from Ukraine. Moscow has denied the allegations and presents its actions as a humanitarian campaign to protect orphans and abandoned children in the conflict zone.
Nonetheless, a Ukrainian NGO called the Regional Center for Human Rights is currently gathering evidence to build a case that Russian officials deliberately prevented the return of Ukrainian children to their country. Kateryna Rashevska, a lawyer from the organization, stated that “in every story, there is a whole range of international violations, and it cannot go unpunished.”