Ukraine says 10 children returned from Russian-held areas

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Ten Ukrainian children and their families have been returned to territory under the control of Kyiv’s forces after living under Russian occupation, Kyiv said on Thursday.

Kyiv has accused Moscow of abducting almost 20,000 children from parts of the east and south of Ukraine, while many more have found themselves living under Russian control after Moscow’s troops invaded in February 2022.

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“The children and their families lived in the temporarily occupied territories in the Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions,” rights ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets said.

The Kremlin, in late 2022, claimed to have annexed those regions along with the eastern territory of Lugansk.

The Ukrainian ombudsman’s office published pictures of children with their faces blurred playing with multicolored toys.

Lubinets said the children were recovering from the “horrors” they experienced and accused Russian-proxy officials of forcing the children to attend Russian schools and sing the Russian anthem.

He also said the families had been pressured to take up Russian passports as a pre-requisite for receiving essential services including medical care.

Kyiv has made returning the children to Ukrainian-controlled territory a diplomatic priority.

Russia has said it moved some Ukrainian children from their houses or orphanages for protection due to the threat of hostilities.

The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his children’s rights commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, over the allegations.

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