At least 31 Ukrainian kids, who were meant to spend two weeks having fun in summer camp, were instead abducted and detained for several months in Russian-occupied territories.
However, this weekend, the children were tearfully reunited with their families after enduring a difficult period of separation during the Russian invasion of their home country.
“We went to the summer camp for two weeks but we got stuck there for six months,” Bogdan, 13, said as he hugged his mother, according to CNN. “I cried when I saw my mom from the bus. I’m very happy to be back.”
Save Ukraine, a humanitarian organization, played a crucial role in reuniting the children with their families. According to a report released in February, these children were among the thousands of kids allegedly detained by Russia since the brutal invasion began over a year ago.
The Russian government has been accused of operating numerous camps, where abducted children are held, which the United Nations considers a war crime.
In response to these accusations, Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s human rights commissioner, informed the U.N. that thousands of deported kids have been taken for their safety, despite a war crimes warrant issued for her and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Lvova-Belova attempted to address an informal U.N. Security Council meeting last week, but several diplomats walked out, and other countries expressed their disapproval by sending low-ranking officials.
She insisted that the children were taken for their own safety. Currently, Russia is chairing the Security Council.
In March of last year, during the early stages of the invasion that started on February 24, 2022, the Ukrainian government reported that around 70 children had been killed.
Last month, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Lvova-Belova and Putin, accusing them of abducting children from Ukraine.
Lvova-Belova’s role in these abductions has been documented, along with Russia’s attempts to offer these children for adoption.
Ukraine claims that over 19,500 Ukrainian children have been seized from their families or orphanages since the war began and forcibly deported from their home country. However, Russia’s estimate is significantly lower.