Olena Zelenskaya appeals for help in the release of Ukrainian children abducted by Russia. – They say that they were told that their parents did not need them, that their country did not need them, that no one needed them – says the first lady of Ukraine. So far, the Ukrainian authorities have documented about 20,000 cases of children who were deported to Russia and the occupied territories. Less than 400 of them were brought home.
When the occupiers occupied Kherson, she was sent to a re-education camp in Crimea. For several months she was indoctrinated and taught to love Russia and Putin. – I tried not to panic and stay calm, but of course I was afraid – says 16-year-old Sofia, abducted by the Russians.
Sofia was liberated from the hands of the occupier, but thousands of Ukrainian children are still waiting to be rescued. Olena Zelenskaya appealed for help in their release at the UN in New York. – So far, Ukraine has managed to bring 386 children home. They all tell the same stories. They say that they were told that their parents did not need them, that their country did not need them, that no one needed them, that no one was looking for them, said the first lady of Ukraine.
Her call came after Belarusian state media reported that 48 children from Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporozhye came to Belarus for a “three-week vacation.” An organization supported by Lukashenko himself is to be responsible for their arrival.
In June, Belarusian oppositionists submitted materials to the International Criminal Court showing that over two thousand Ukrainian children – with Lukashenko’s consent – were sent to Belarus. – We should be concerned not only about the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia and the occupied territories, but also to Belarus. Ukrainian children are forcibly given Russian citizenship. These children are adopted by Russian families, points out Diana Nausėdienė, the first lady of Lithuania. – Children are fed propaganda and brainwashed. Some of them are sent to military training, adds Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US ambassador to the UN.
“We must unite for the good of Ukrainian children”
Moscow claims that it is not kidnapping Ukrainian children, that it is taking them to Russia for security reasons and for their own good. In March, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the president of Russia and a Russian children’s rights ombudsman who are responsible for the deportation of Ukrainian children. Vladimir Putin and Maria Lviv-Belova are accused of war crimes.
– We managed to confirm about 20,000 cases of deportation, but the Russians claim that they deported many more children. We are talking about over 700,000 cases. We do not have a list of these children, we do not know their situation, we do not know what is happening to their parents, what their condition is. We do not know how to bring them to Ukraine, says Ukrainian human rights ombudsman Dmytro Lubinec.
– We cannot just be united in seeking justice. We must unite for the good of Ukrainian children, emphasizes Andriy Kostin, Prosecutor General of Ukraine.
Among the children who managed to bring home are Maksym and Ivan. When the Russians attacked Ukraine, the boys lived in a boarding school in Mariupol. When they ran out of water and food, they fled on foot to a nearby village. They were captured by the Russians and taken to occupied Donetsk. As in other cases, for security reasons, details of the rescue operation are not disclosed. Maksym and Ivan went to The Hague to talk about their experiences.
– I was taken against my will. Nobody asked me anything. They just took me away, said Maksym.
However, the crimes of Putin’s soldiers do not end with taking children to Russia. Since the beginning of the invasion, over half a thousand Ukrainian children have lost their lives and hundreds have been injured.
Ukrainian authorities are investigating cases of sexual violence against minors. According to Olena Zelenskaya, the youngest child sexually abused by Russians was only four years old.
Facts about the World TVN24 BiS
Main photo source: TVN24 BiS/Reuters