Ukraine says it has brought back 31 children from Russia amid war

Children play in Novokyivka, southern Ukraine.
Children play in Novokyivka, southern Ukraine. Copyright Bernat Armangue/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Bernat Armangue/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Euronews with AP
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The head of a Ukrainian rescue organisation said it has brought back 31 children from Russia, where they had been taken during the war.

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The head of a Ukrainian rescue organisation said it has brought back 31 children from Russia, where they had been taken during the war.

Mykola Kuleba said at a news conference in Kyiv on Saturday that the children were expected to arrive in the capital later in the day. Kuleba is the executive director of Save Ukraine and is the presidential commissioner for children's rights.

Deportations of Ukrainian children have been a concern since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February last year. The International Criminal Court increased pressure on Russia when it issued arrest warrants on 17 March for President Vladimir Putin and Russian children's rights commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova, accusing them of abducting children from Ukraine.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said this week it had been in contact with Lvova-Belova, the first confirmation of high-level international intervention to reunite families with children who were forcibly deported.

ICRC spokesman Jason Straziuso said the contact was “in line with its mandate to restore contact between separated families and facilitate reunification where feasible.”

An Associated Press investigation revealed Lvova-Belova’s involvement in the abductions and found an open effort to put Ukrainian children up for adoption in Russia.

Lvova-Belova told an informal UN Security Council meeting Wednesday the children were taken for their safety, not abducted - a claim widely rejected by the international community.

The exact number of Ukrainian children taken to Russia has been difficult to determine, and numbers from the warring countries differ vastly.

A statement posted Wednesday on Twitter by Ukraine’s UN ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said more than 19,500 children had been seized from their families or orphanages and forcibly deported.

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