Over 30 children were reunited with their families in Ukraine after a long and arduous operation to retrieve them from Russia, where they were taken from occupied areas during the war.
According to a humanitarian group, the fifth rescue mission is nearing completion, with this operation being special for the number of children who were successfully brought back and its complexity.
Kyiv estimates that nearly 19,500 children have been taken to Russia since Moscow invaded in February last year, an act that it condemns as illegal deportations.
However, Moscow, which controls parts of Ukraine’s east and south, denies abducting children and claims that they have been transported for their own safety.
The Save Ukraine humanitarian organisation provided assistance to Ukrainian relatives of children who were taken to Russia, assisting them with the logistics, transport, and planning needed to embark on the long journey to retrieve their children and bring them back.
Unfortunately, a grandmother who was due to reunite with two of her grandchildren passed away suddenly during the trip, and the children had to remain in Russia.
Mykola Kuleba, the founder of Save Ukraine and Ukraine’s former commissioner for children’s rights, informed the media that all the children who were brought back to Ukraine by Save Ukraine have said that no one in Russia is attempting to locate their parents in Ukraine.
Kuleba added that some of the children had been relocated five times in just five months and that some children had been living with rats and cockroaches. The children were taken to what Russians called stays in summer camps from occupied parts of Ukraine’s Kharkiv and Kherson regions, he said.
At the media briefing in Kyiv, three children were present, two boys and a girl, who were returned to Ukraine on a previous rescue mission last month that returned a total of 18 children.
The three children stated that they had been separated from their parents, who were pressured by Russian authorities to send their children to Russian summer camps for what was supposed to be two weeks.
The International Criminal Court has 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 rejected the allegations, saying that it does not recognise the jurisdiction of the ICC and that the warrant against Putin and Lvova-Belova is null and void.
In conclusion, as Kateryna Rashevska, a lawyer from a Ukrainian NGO called Regional Centre for Human Rights, stated, there is a whole range of international violations in this story, and it cannot go unpunished.
“In every story there is a whole range of international violations and it cannot go unpunished,” she said.