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Zelensky, foreign officials speak with survivors of Russian occupation in Chernihiv Oblast

by The Kyiv Independent news desk April 3, 2023 6:12 PM 3 min read
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President Volodymyr Zelensky, along with Council of Europe General Secretary Marija Pejčinović Burić and German Economy Minister Robert Habeck, visited the school in Chernihiv Oblast where 367 local residents were kept in a basement by Russian forces for 27 days. (Photo: President's Office)

President Volodymyr Zelensky and two European officials met with survivors of the Russian occupation of Yahidne village in Chernihiv Oblast, the President's Office reported on April 3.

Yahidne was under occupation at the start of the full-scale invasion until Russian forces withdrew at the end of March 2022.

Zelensky, along with Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić and German Economy Minister Robert Habeck, visited the school where 367 local residents were kept in a basement for 27 days by the Russians.

Prior to the invasion, the village had a population of around 400 people, the President's Office wrote.

Fifty children were among the hostages and eleven people in total died, according to the President's Office. Residents made a record of each individual's name and date of death on the basement walls.

"Thank you for surviving and waiting for our warriors to arrive. Your testimony has allowed the world to learn about the tragedy that the Russian Federation, its military, and leadership, including the president, have brought to our land," Zelensky said when addressing the survivors.

Zelensky also stressed the importance of Ukraine's allies visiting the liberated regions of Ukraine and meeting with those who lived through Russian aggression, the President's Office wrote.

Ukraine has been coordinating with EU officials to establish an international tribunal for Russian war crimes.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on March 16 that 33 countries were already part of a "core group" working to establish the tribunal.

On March 17, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian official allegedly overseeing the forced deportations of over 16,000 Ukrainian children to Russia.

In its statement, the ICC writes that it believes Putin “bears individual criminal responsibility” as the leader of Russia for the crimes committed against Ukrainian children.

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