Russia returns four abducted Ukrainian children

October 16, 2023

Russia agreed to return four abducted Ukrainian children to their families as part of a deal brokered by Qatar, the BBC reported Monday.

The repatriation of the children comes amid a pilot plan to return many of the tens of thousands of children who’ve been abducted by Russia since it invaded Ukraine in February, 2022.

Ukraine has identified some 20,000 of its children who’ve been taken by Russia, though the number is likely much higher. 

In mid-March of this year, the International Criminal Court in The Hague (ICC) issued an arrest warrant  for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes, pointing to his alleged involvement in the abduction of Ukrainian children. Along with Putin, the ICC issued an arrest warrant on similar allegations for Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, the Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation.

In a statement at the time, the ICC said that Putin was “allegedly responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation of [children] and that of unlawful transfer of [children] from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.”

While Kyiv has insisted that the children were forcibly taken and have been subjected to Russian indoctrination, Moscow has insisted the deportations were merely to protect Ukrainian children from the war it sparked when it invaded Ukraine. And Lvova-Belova quoted Putin on her Telegram channel as having said, “We have never been against children being reunited with their families.”

The return of the four children is part of a plan worked on by Qatar after it helmed talks with Russian and Ukrainian officials. The hope is that further repatriations will follow if the first are successful. 

Among the four returned children was a seven-year-old boy who was reunited with his grandmother on Friday and arrived in Ukraine on Monday. The other three children have also been reunited with family members and were expected to return to Ukraine Monday or Tuesday. 

PHOTO: Illegally deported Ukrainian children, May 2022, per Radio Free Europe

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