A Ukrainian teenager, who was taken to Russia from occupied Mariupol, is returning to Ukraine
Yermokhin, an orphan from the Ukrainian city of Mariupol who was captured by Moscow troops during the first year of the war, was taken to Russia and placed in a foster family in the Moscow region.
A Ukrainian teenager who was taken to Russia from the occupied city of Mariupol during the war and prevented from leaving the country earlier this year returned to Ukraine on Sunday, Reuters writes.
Bogdan Jermokhin, who turned 18 on Sunday, appealed to President Volodymyr Zelensky this month to help him return to Ukraine. In March, he tried to leave Russia for Ukraine via Belarus, but was stopped and sent back.
Ukraine says 20.000 children have been illegally transferred to Russia since the full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022, and some have been given up for adoption. Kiev says it is a war crime, which Russia denies, saying it protected children in the war zone.
An orphan placed in a foster family near Moscow
Yermokhin, an orphan from the Ukrainian city of Mariupol who was captured by Moscow troops during the first year of the war, was taken to Russia and placed with a foster family in the Moscow region.
On Sunday, Reuters correspondents in Kortelisi, a Ukrainian village near the border with Belarus, saw Yermokhin being driven to Ukraine from the border in a van. Asked if he was glad to be back in Ukraine, Yermokhin said "yes".
"We have been in constant contact with Bogdan and he is already in Ukraine with his cousin," Andrij Jermak, the head of the president's cabinet, wrote in a telegram announcing his return.
Marijam Lambert from the Dutch non-governmental organization "Orphans Feeding Foundation" told Reuters that since August they have been working with the Ukrainian human rights ombudsman and Zelensky's office to return children deported to Russia, including Yermokhin.
His lawyer, Katerina Bobrovska, said Yermokhin was told to report to a recruitment office near Moscow next month and warned he could be drafted into the Russian army.
In a statement, Russian Children's Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova said he had been invited to update his military registration and that "all Russian citizens of his age receive such invitations."
Lvova-Belova said that Yermokhin left Russia on Saturday by plane to Minsk on his way to Ukraine and that he met a relative in the Belarusian capital. She admitted that Jermohin wanted to be reunited with his cousin.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin in March, charging him and Lvova-Belova with the war crime of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine.
The Kremlin says Moscow does not recognize the ICC's jurisdiction and has rejected the charges.
( Al.H. )