Thirty-one children have been brought back to Ukraine after being illegally taken to Russia from territories annexed by Moscow, a Ukranian charity has revealed.
The children had been taken from the country’s northeastern region of Kharkiv and the southern region of Kherson, said Save Ukraine, which fights what it says are illegal deportations of Ukrainian children to Russian-controlled territory.
“Today we are welcoming home 31 more children who have been illegally taken by Russians from occupied territories,” Mykola Kuleba, head of the Save Ukraine charity, wrote on social media on Saturday, April 8.
According to footage released this weekend, the children, who carried suitcases and bags, crossed the border on foot and later boarded a bus to continue their journey.
Kuleba praised the “heroic mothers” who had travelled to retrieve their children in what it called the “most difficult” of the charity’s rescue missions to date.
More than 16,000 Ukrainian children have been deported to Russia since the invasion launched on February 24, 2022, according to the Ukranian government, with many allegedly placed in institutions and foster homes.
Russia denies the allegations, saying instead it has saved Ukrainian children from the horrors of the war.
Last month, the International Criminal Court announced an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin on the war crime accusation of unlawfully deporting Ukrainian children.
The Hague-based court also issued a warrant against Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s presidential commissioner for children’s rights, on similar charges.