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People light candles and lay toys on the ground in the center of the EU district in Brussels, Belgium, in protest against the Russian abduction of Ukrainian children on Feb. 24, 2023. (Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)
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Ukraine brought back around 800 children abducted by Russia out of the nearly 20,000, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in an interview with Channel 24 published on June 23.

"We do not know the exact number of children who were taken away. We have managed to establish that it is about 20,000 children, of whom 800 have already been returned," Vereshchuk said.

"There are also cases when children and their guardians return (from Russia) to third countries. This is an ongoing process."

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."

Russia abducted 46 children from foster home in then-occupied Kherson in 2022, NYT reports
All children were transported to the city of Simferopol in Russian-occupied Crimea by Russian authorities connected to the ruling Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party.

Ukrainian authorities are searching for data on Ukrainian children through Europol, European, and global institutions, according to the minister. If children are abroad, outside of Russia, they are removed from the list of those who are being searched, she added.

Vereshchuk said the sanctions from the international community must be strict so that Russia realizes that punishment for its actions is real.

"If it (Russia) continues this policy, the genocide of the Ukrainian people, it must receive sanctions, real prison terms."

"Then the process of returning our children will go much faster," she said.

Some children who were abducted and deported to Russia were possibly put up for adoption on a government-linked adoption site, according to an investigation released by the Financial Times (FT) on June 12.

The FT's investigation identified four Ukrainian children aged eight to 15 on the Russian government-linked adoption website usynovite.ru. The children were reportedly abducted from Ukrainian state-care homes.

Ukrainian children who have been forcibly deported to Russia are subject to systemic re-education efforts by Russian authorities, according to a report published by the Guardian on Feb. 4.

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