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Ombudsman: 2 more children returned from occupied territories
A 9-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy were returned to their family on the Ukrainian-controlled territory, ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets reported on March 23.
According to Lubinets, a request to return the children from the Russian-occupied territories came from a woman who was previously in Russian captivity.
Lubinets called on relatives and guardians whose children are now in Russia or on the occupied territory to contact the Commissioner's Office to request the return.
More than 16,000 Ukrainian children are confirmed to have been deported by Russia since the start of the full-scale invasion, according to the government website Children of War.
On the same day, the ombudsman said on national television that the real number of Ukrainian children forcibly taken by Russian troops could be "tens, or even hundreds of thousands."
Lubinets said, cited by Ukrinform news outlet, that the international law considered forced deportation only when Ukrainian children were transported across the Ukrainian-Russian border.
"Even if they were forcibly taken to (Russian-occupied) Crimea, the International Criminal Court would not interpret it as deportation because Crimea is Ukraine, but as soon as they cross the border, due to the actions of the Russian military or the occupying authorities, the deportation process begins," the Ukrainian ombudsman explained.
According to Lubinets, it is easier to negotiate with Russia regarding children in the Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine than those taken to Russia.
"They understand that every returned child is an additional witness to the war crime of forced deportation of Ukrainian children. This process is slow and difficult," he added.
Ukraine has so far managed to return over 300 Ukrainian children forcibly relocated by Russia, according to Lubinets, and the process is ongoing.