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NGO returns 3 children from Russian-occupied territory

by Daria Shulzhenko December 24, 2023 3:53 PM 3 min read
Ukrainian NGO Save Ukraine returned three more children from Russian-occupied territory on Dec. 24. (Mykola Kuleba, head of Save Ukraine/Facebook)
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Three Ukrainian children have been rescued from Russian-occupied territory by Save Ukraine, a Ukrainian humanitarian NGO, the organization’s head, Mykola Kuleba, reported on Dec. 24.

"In this way, we have completed the 14th rescue mission, during which we saved 14 children, seven of whom are children deprived of parental care," Kuleba wrote on Facebook.

This time, the NGO rescued an eight-year-old boy, Yelysei, who lived with his grandmother in an occupied part of Kherson Oblast. When the boy’s grandmother died, "Russian occupation authorities immediately placed the child in an orphanage," Kuleba said.

Save Ukraine has helped Yelysei’s mother, who was sick at that time and lived in Odesa, get proper medical assistance and rescue her child.

‘It was hell.’ Mother speaks of rescuing her child from Russian captivity
On Oct. 8, Tetiana Bodak was busy organizing a funeral for her mother, who was killed by a Russian attack in then-occupied Kherson Oblast, when she got an unexpected and very emotional phone call from her son. “Mom, I’m in Oleshky (a Russian-occupied settlement in Kherson Oblast). On the way

"The woman had to undergo lengthy interrogations by the FSB (Russia's Federal Security Service), engage in interviews, and overcome (other) obstacles. Fortunately, she managed to retrieve her son from the orphanage," Kuleba wrote.

Along with Yelysei, Save Ukraine managed to return two 18-year-old brothers, Andrii and Mykhailo. According to Kuleba, the brothers are orphans raised in a foster family in the occupied territory.

Ukrainian NGO Save Ukraine returned three more children from Russian-occupied territory on Dec. 24. (Mykola Kuleba, head of Save Ukraine/Facebook)

"Upon reaching adulthood, the boys realized that the occupation authorities would soon conscript them to fight against their own people. In Ukraine, both were listed as missing persons," he wrote.

"Now, all three of them are safe. The children are awaiting recovery and a return to normal life."

As of late December, Ukraine has identified over 19,500 children who have been deported or forcibly displaced by Russia since the start of the full-scale invasion.

Less than 400 of them have been returned to Ukraine, according to the national database.

Save Ukraine says it has brought back 226 children.

In March, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for Maria Lvova-Belova and Russian dictator Vladimir Putin over their role in the forced deportation of Ukrainian children.

Explainer: What we know about Russia’s deportation of Ukrainian children
In March, the International Criminal Court made a historic ruling: It issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian official overseeing the forced deportations of Ukrainian children to Russia. The statement by ICC says that Putin is “allegedly respo…
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