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12 Mar, 2024 14:12

Displaced Ukrainian kids want to live in Russia – human rights boss

Dozens of children rescued from the conflict zone have been reunited with their families
Displaced Ukrainian kids want to live in Russia – human rights boss

Some Ukrainian children that were relocated to Russia from the conflict zone prefer to stay there instead of coming back to their own country, Alexander Pavlichenko, head of the Ukrainian Helsinki Union for Human Rights, said on Tuesday.

According to Pavlichenko, some of the children that returned to Ukraine see more opportunities in Russia than in their home country, which he called “a problem.”

“They see better conditions there [in Russia], they see themselves better realized there,” he stated on the air of the TV channel Kiev 24. According to Pavlichenko, the Ukrainian authorities should do more to help the returning kids adapt to living in Ukraine.

“They need constant attention… they need to be included in an active social life, given new opportunities and advantages, so that they do not want to return to Russia,” he stressed.

Just last month, 11 children from Ukraine and Donbass were reunited with their families. They met with their loved ones at the Qatari embassy in Moscow.

“This is the largest group of children during our family reunification activities,” Russian Children’s Rights Commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, who led the effort, said. She earlier revealed that her department had facilitated the reunification of 48 children with their Ukrainian relatives living either in Ukraine or abroad since the start of the conflict in February 2022. According to the ombudsman, Russia is ready to assist other children displaced by the hostilities to reunite with their relatives, but the process takes time and each request is processed on a case-by-case basis.

Late last year, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, revealed that more than five million people had relocated to Russia from Ukraine and Donbass over the past two years, including over 730,000 children. Moscow has repeatedly insisted that it has been evacuating children from the conflict zone to save their lives but has faced accusations from both Kiev and the West of “abducting” minors.

The Russian authorities have also repeatedly stressed that displaced children are not adopted in Russia and that they may only be put under guardianship or into foster care to make sure they are taken care of before a return to their families can be facilitated.

Last March, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Lvova-Belova and Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing them of “unlawful deportation” of children. Putin rejected the allegations as “overblown” and stressed that the children had been rescued rather than kidnapped.