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Russian border restrictions make it harder for Ukrainians to reunite with deported children

by Abbey Fenbert November 3, 2023 7:09 AM 1 min read
Ukrainian woman protest Russia's illegal deportation of Ukrainian children on International Children's Day in Cape Town, South Africa, on June 1, 2023. (Misha Jordaan/Gallo Images via Getty Images)
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Restrictions on Ukrainians trying to enter Russia has made it more difficult for Ukrainian families to bring home children who were forcibly deported, the BBC's Russian Service reported on Nov. 2.

Russia imposed restrictions on Ukrainian citizens seeking entry via land border crossings on Oct. 16. Ukrainians over the age of 14 are no longer permitted to cross into Russia via Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, or Finland, and will only be admitted through Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport.

Representatives of NGOs told the BBC that the new limitations are impacting efforts to return deported Ukrainian children to their families.

"The restrictions have a serious impact on the fragile processes of returning Ukrainian children stolen by Russia and forcibly displaced by Russia," the Ukrainian Network for Children's Rights said in a statement.

According to the Ukrainian government, more than 19,500 children have been illegally deported to Russia during the war. Thus far, only 386 of these children have been returned.

Russian authorities generally require that mothers or close female relatives travel to Russia to pick up their children. Since it is impossible to cross directly from Ukraine due to the war and Russia's ongoing occupation, these women usually travel through the Baltic nations and return to Ukraine by the same route.

Those routes, however, are now barred.

"This leads to high costs and difficulties in obtaining the necessary documents for traveling, and the impossibility of returning children without passports," the Ukrainian Network for Children's Rights said.

The Save Ukraine Foundation, which works to reunite families with deported children, echoed these concerns.

"The work of the foundation continues, but not to the extent as before. Now we have more complex cases, and from case to case it is individual work, individual routes. Not large groups as before, but point-by-point assistance to a specific family, to a specific child," Olga Erokhina, spokesperson for the foundation, told the BBC.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and Presidential Commissioner for Children's Rights Maria Lvova-Belova in March for their role in the abduction of Ukrainian children.

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