Ukrainian authorities on Tuesday announced they have recovered more than 40 children who were illegally taken to Russia and Russian-occupied territories amid the war.
In a Facebook post, the Ministry of Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine said the 44 Ukrainian children who were recovered were mostly orphans or those deprived of parental care.
The Ministry of Reintegration said it is making plans to make changes to the mechanism of adopting a child during the war. Ukraine recently launched “The child is not alone” Telegram bot where locals can register if they are willing to temporarily shelter an orphan in the family.
Daria Herasymchuk, the Commissioner of the President of Ukraine for Rights of Children and Children Rehabilitation, said they will launch an adoption service in the “Diia” application — a mobile app that simplifies various online services for citizens.
The first reported case of forced deportation happened in March when Pyotr Andryuschenko, an assistant to the mayor of Mariupol, told The New York Times that Russian forces took between 4,000 to 4,500 residents to the southwestern Russian city of Taganrog. The mayor did not specify how many children were taken but noted that none of the officially registered orphans was left in the city three days after the invasion began on Feb. 24.
In April, the Ukrainian Ombudswoman for Human Rights Lyudmila Denisova accused the Russian government of forcibly “deporting” over 121,000 Ukrainian children amid the war. Denisova also accused the Kremlin of crafting legislation that would allow Russians to forcibly adopt children taken from the Donbas region.
Late last month, the Ukrainian government said at least 2,000 orphans were forcibly taken by Russian soldiers to their country since the war began in February, adding that the act was in violation of international laws, according to RFERL.
Mykola Kuleba, the former Ukrainian ombudsman for children, said Russia is using children as part of their propaganda that shows Russians they are “liberating” children from the “Nazis.”
At least 335 children have died and 521 sustained injuries since the war began in February, estimates from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) showed.