Ukrainian Children Return To Kyiv After Being Held In Russia - Emotional Reunion
Ukrainian children return to Kyiv after being held in Russia. It's been months since the children were separated from their loved ones and taken to camps where they underwent "political reeducation," including Russia-centric academic, cultural, and, in some cases, military education.
Allegations of widespread forced deportation of children from Ukraineto Russia form the basis of war crimes charges brought against Russian President Vladimir Putin and a senior official, Maria Lvova-Belova, by the International Criminal Court last month.
31 Ukrainian children who were taken from their homes and moved to Russian-occupied territories have finally been reunited with their families. The humanitarian organization coordinated the reunions Save Ukraine, which has now completed five missions bringing home Ukrainian children it says were forcibly deported by Russia.
The children, accompanied by family members, had crossed the border by foot a day earlier and were met by volunteers before being put on a bus to the Ukrainian capital.
“We went to the summer camp for two weeks but we got stuck there for six months,” said one of the teenagers, Bogdan, 13, as he hugged his mother. “I cried when I saw my mom from the bus. I’m very happy to be back.”
Ukraine returns 31 children from Russia after alleged deportation
Bogdan’s mother, Iryna, 51, said she had received very little information about her son in the six months they were apart. “There was no phone connection. I was very worried. I didn’t know anything, whether he was being abused, what was happening to him. … My hands are still shaking,” she said.
Mykola Kuleba, the founder of Save Ukraine, said the mission comprised a group of 13 mothers, who left Ukraine a little over a week ago, many of them were granted power of attorney which allowed them to collect other parents’ children in addition to their own.
The group crossed into Poland before traveling through Belarus, Russia and finally entering Russian-occupied Crimea, where they were reunited with 24 of the children. The other seven children were collected in Voronezh, Rostov, and Belgorod, all inside Russia.
A girl, a boy, and a kid embracing his father
“It is thanks to our joint and coordinated work that we once again experience these incredible emotions when, after a long separation, children run across their native land into the arms of their families. When you see tears of joy on the faces of young Ukrainians, you realize that it is not all in vain,” said Kuleba in a press conference earlier Saturday.
Sadly, tragedy struck during the latest rescue mission: one of the women traveling with the party – a grandmother – passed away during the journey. The woman had been due to pick up two children on the mission, but because of her death, the pair were not permitted to travel back to Ukraine.
Ukraine’s head of the Office of the President recently estimated the total number of children forcibly removed from their homes is at least 20,000. Kyiv has said thousands of cases are already under investigation. Russia has denied it is doing anything illegal, claiming it is bringing Ukrainian children to safety.
The reunions have brought joy to many families who have been separated from their children for months, but many children are still waiting to be reunited with their families. The work of organizations like Save Ukraine is crucial in bringing these children back to their homes and loved ones.