UNICEF responds to Kiev’s child-abduction claim

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UN agency has stated it has no evidence to support Ukraine’s claims, as Russia denies it forcibly relocated any refugees

Moscow has denied accusations of forcibly sending Ukrainian refugees to Russia, while UNICEF has stated that it possesses no evidence that Russia has been abducting children in the region, as is being claimed by Kiev.

Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova reported on Tuesday that over 500,000 civilians from the Donetsk People’s Republic, Lugansk People’s Republic and Ukraine have willingly relocated to the Russian Federation since the start of the military conflict.

“I responsibly declare that there has never been any forceful relocation of refugees to Russia, these are all lies,” said the ombudswoman, referring to Kiev’s accusation that Moscow has forcibly sent over 500,000 civilians to Russia to “use them as hostages” to pressure Ukraine to surrender.   

Moskalkova says she personally spoke with several refugees, all of whom claimed they specifically wanted to seek refuge in Russia. The ombudswoman claims all refugees are being provided with necessary food, clothes and medication.

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FILE PHOTO. An ICRC in a village situated on the line between areas congrolled by government and rebel forces area in Luhansk region. ©Martyn Aim / Corbis via Getty Images
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She went on to insist that officials from The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) should come visit the temporary accommodation points in Russia to confirm the wellbeing of refugees for themselves.

Earlier, Moskalkova said that Karim Atassi, the acting head of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Russia, visited the temporary accommodation center in the Rostov region, which is near Ukraine’s eastern border, and gave a very positive assessment of Russia’s efforts in aiding Ukrainian refugees.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian human rights commissioner Lyudmila Denisova has been calling on international organizations such as the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) to intervene in what she claims to be the forceful abduction of children from Ukraine by Russia.

Denisova claims that over 121,000 children, including orphans and children with parents, have been forcefully sent to Russia and that the Kremlin is planning to simplify adoption procedures for these kids.

However, UNICEF’s emergency programs director Manuel Fontaine, who recently returned from Ukraine, stated during a press conference on Tuesday that, while the organization has heard similar reports, it does not currently possess any evidence to support Kiev’s claims, but is “willing to look into it.”

UNICEF provided some alarming numbers on the number of children affected by the military conflict. According to the organization, over two thirds – 4.8 million out of 7.5 million – Ukrainian children have been displaced since the start of the hostilities, while some 142 have reportedly been killed and 229 injured.

“We know these numbers are likely much higher – and many of them were caused by crossfire or the use of explosive weapons in populated areas,” Fontaine said.

The organization also warns that half of the 3.2 million children that remain in Ukraine “may be at risk of not having enough food,” with those in besieged cities like Mariupol facing the most dire situation.

UNICEF has previously claimed that over 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the military conflict. The organization expects this number could reach four million people.

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