Russia’s children’s rights commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova, wanted by the International Criminal Court for the “deportation” of Ukrainian children, said Tuesday she is ready to send children back to Ukraine if their families request it.
Ukraine accuses Russia of having “stolen” more than 16,000 children since the start of its offensive more than a year ago.
Russia says it is “saving” the children from combat zones and that it has a procedure in place for them to be reunited with their families.
Last month, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Lvova-Belova and Russian President Vladimir Putin for the “unlawful deportation” of Ukrainian children.
During a press conference Tuesday, Lvova-Belova said she had not been contacted by “any representative of the Ukrainian authorities” about the deported children since the start of the conflict.
She said parents could write her an email to look for the children.
“Write to me… to find your child,” she said.
According to a report published by her office Tuesday, 16 children from nine families have been reunited with their Ukrainian relatives since March 29.
She refused to publish a complete list of Ukrainian children brought to Russia.
According to the report, 380 Ukrainian orphans have been placed in foster families in Russia, including 22 minors found abandoned in Mariupol — a port city virtually razed to the ground before its capture by Russian forces last year.
Lvova-Belova said adopted children were given Russian nationality while keeping their Ukrainian one.
According to Lvova-Belova, one teenager brought to Russia from Mariupol had been stopped at the Belarus border as he tried to return to Ukraine.
She said he had been “lured back to the territory of Ukraine by manipulations and threats.”
AFP was not able to verify this account.
Russia has dismissed the ICC’s order as “void.”