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Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Maria Lvova-Belova, Russian children's rights commissioner, at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on Feb. 16, 2023. (Mikhail Metzel/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)
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The Russian government abducted 46 children from Kherson Children's Home, a state-run foster home for institutionalized children with special needs, in April 2022, the New York Times (NYT) said in its investigation published on June 2.

At least 19,500 Ukrainian children have been confirmed as abducted by Russia since the start of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and less than 400 have been brought home, according to the Ukrainian government's Children of War database.

The staff of the foster home hid the children, who were infants and toddlers, and some had serious disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, in the church's basement when the full-scale invasion started in February 2022.

On April 25, 2022, Russian officials found the children and transported them 180 miles (290 kilometers) from their home to Crimea, filming propaganda videos, the NYT reported.

A man with the monicker "Navigator" reportedly visited the foster home repeatedly and ordered the children's relocation from the church. The NYT identified him as Igor Kastyukevich, a member of the Russian parliament for Vladimir Putin's United Russia party.

"What happened to them next, legal experts say, may amount to a war crime," the investigation said.

All 46 children were transported to the city of Simferopol in Russian-occupied Crimea. The children were also divided between two facilities. One of them was Yolochka, whose staff had previously been investigated for negligence.

‘Why does everyone have 2 legs but me?’ Children learn to live with prosthetics after being injured by Russia’s war
Eleven-year-old Oleksandr Reshetniak from Kharkiv Oblast still vividly remembers holding the stump of his torn-off leg, trying to stop the bleeding. On Jan. 17, Oleksandr and his 13-year-old cousin Alina were heading to a grocery store in his native village of Malyi Burluk, near Kupiansk, in the ea…

Russian authorities gave the Ukrainian children Russian birth certificates and social security numbers and translated their names into Russian. The children also received Russian citizenship, which made them eligible for adoption and permanent placement with Russian families, the outlet wrote.

Later, profiles of the abducted children began to appear on a Russian federal adoption website. Twenty-two profiles were published without mentioning the birth country, Ukraine. The children were listed as from Crimea.

At least two children were placed with Russian families, the NYT said, citing child services in Crimea.

Seven children from Kherson Children's Home have been brought back to Ukraine with the assistance of Ukrainian authorities and third-party Qatari mediators. Other children remain in Russian custody, according to the NYT.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Russian Presidential Commissioner for Children's Rights Maria Lvova-Belova and Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 17, 2023, over the deportation of Ukrainian children.

Putin previously praised Lvova-Belova for her work overseeing the deportation of Ukrainian children, portraying it as a so-called "humanitarian effort" to "protect Russian citizens."

How thousands of Ukrainian children cope with losing parents to war
Editor’s Note: The Kyiv Independent spoke with children under the permission of one of their surviving parents. At the age of 11, Arina Pervunina saw Russian troops killing her father. She and her younger brother were caught behind enemy lines at their grandparents’ house in Kherson Oblast shortly…

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Putin holds talks with Assad in Moscow.

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