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Ombudsman: 28,000 Ukrainian citizens in Russian captivity

by Dominic Culverwell February 25, 2024 6:40 PM 2 min read
People stand with posters during a rally on Derybasivska Street in Odesa, Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2024. (Viacheslav Onyshchenko/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)
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There are 28,000 Ukrainian citizens in Russian captivity, Ukraine’s Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets told reporters at the "Ukraine. Year 2024" forum on Feb. 25.

The captives are spread across Russia and the occupied territories, according to Lubinets. Many are religious figures, journalists, NGO workers, and representatives from local governments, he said.

“Some of them go a long time without any criminal investigations from the Russian side,” he added.

Ukraine has managed to return 3,135 citizens, including 147 civilians. Around 90% of Ukrainian prisoners of war are tortured every day, Lubinets said.

Speaking about the return of stolen children, Lubinets said that he believes partner countries, like Qatar, are more effective than international organizations. Currently, 70 countries have joined Canada’s “International Coalition for the Return of Ukrainian Children,” which was officially launched on Feb. 2.

“If we return one Ukrainian child every day, it will take us 55 years. Do we have that kind of time? No, we don't,” he said.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 17, 2023, over the deportation of Ukrainian children. The 123 member states of the ICC are required to arrest Putin if he steps foot on their territory.

Regarding military prisoners, Lubinets explained that several organizations are focussing on the return of different units. However, added that his task is to bring back all captured people rather than focusing on specific units.

Ukrainians have directed attention towards the Azovstal soldiers in Mariupol that were captured in May 2022. While some have returned, many remain in captivity.

“We see that it's the hardest task to return the defenders of Mariupol. But we will do everything to return all of them,” Lubinets said.

Lubinets appealed to the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Feb. 20 to investigate the killings of Ukrainian prisoners of war at the Zenit strongpoint in Avdiivka.

The city fell into Russian control on Feb. 17 after months of resisting Russia’s intensified offensive against the town.

Ombudsman: 11 more Ukrainian children illegally held by Russia return home
Ukraine managed to return 11 more children deported or illegally held by Russia, including in the occupied territories, Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets announced on Feb. 20.
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