The saga of 15 schoolchildren and 20,000 other Ukrainian children who were deported to Russia

From our correspondent
Odessa – “We don’t know exactly how many there are Deported childrenWe continue to work for the return of each of them, keeping in mind that each case is different and requires a different intervention. But it is clear that we continue to consider the efforts of the Pope and his representatives.”

Ukrainian Human Rights Commissioner Dmytro Lubinets has already met with the cardinal, the pope’s special envoy Matteo ZupiFor months, she has been working at all tables to find support in the delicate processes of repatriating minors. At the diplomatic level, the Vatican is the guarantor of mediations.

If the return of kidnapped minors to Kiev becomes one of these steps An indispensable condition To start a It was negotiated As for Moscow, it is no coincidence that Lubinets, who will be in New York today, is expected to arrive in Rome in the next few days. On the other hand, he met with the new Russian ambassador to the Vatican, Ivan Soltanovsky. Pope Francesco He expressed his desire to meet Orthodox Patriarch Kirill again, while Cardinal Zobe prepares to return to Moscow awaiting Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. All signs that speak of A Continuous workIt is often kept under covers.

According to the United Nations, there are at least 19,546 Ukrainian children They ended up in Russian re-education facilities as of February 24, 2022. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in July spoke of 260,000 minors, but since 2014, the year of the annexation of Crimea, until now More than a million were forcibly deportedas reported by Mykola Kuleba, head of the non-governmental organization Save Ukraine. “In reality, hundreds of thousands of children could be kidnapped, because a large part of Ukraine is still occupied and we don’t know what is happening there,” explains Daria Gerasimchuk, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s adviser on children’s rights.

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Moscow apparently cites lower numbers – 700,000 – and claims to have given refuge to children fleeing the bombings. “There are no safe places in Donbas at the moment,” he told the UN. Maria Lvova Belova, President Vladimir Putin’s Children’s Commissioner, for whom the International Criminal Court issued an international arrest warrant. If there is no official data on the abductees, Kiev reports that only 380 children out of more than 19,000 were able to return.

Since February 2022, Russia has used various methods to deport children. In some cases, it was the families themselves who agreed to the transfer out of good faith to maintain their safety, and then lost contact. But there have also been incidents of transportation carried out using force.

This is the case with a group of 15 students from NovopetrivkaIt is a village in the Mykolaiv region, which was deported last July to Krasnodar in the Crimean Peninsula across the Dnipro River and the Sea of ​​Azov, as reported by Reuters. BBC In confirmation of courier Director of the Novopetrivka School Natalia Lutsik. According to Natalia, on July 15, 2022, a group of Russian soldiers from the 205th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade loaded 15 students, 11 male and 4 female, into the car. “They were crying. But what can we do? They threatened us with machine guns“, recalls Natalia.

The group was transferred to the village of Stepanivka in the Kherson region, deep in Russian-occupied territory. But a few weeks before the city was liberated, the children were deported across the Dnipro River to Krasnodar. There, according to Natalia’s story, thanks to the help of a group of Georgian volunteers, they managed to escape and reach Tbilisi, before returning to Ukraine at the end of November. Happy ending to the 15th grade of the Novoptrivka School. But not for the thousands of other minors, for whom we work day and night so that they can soon return to their homeland in Ukraine.

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