December 4, 2023


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A Ukrainian orphan taken to Russia returns home to his family

A Ukrainian orphan taken to Russia returns home to his family

An orphaned Ukrainian teenager who was taken to Russia last year during the war in his country returned home after being reunited with relatives in Belarus on his 18th birthday on Sunday. Bohdan Yermukhin was pictured embracing family members in Minsk in photos shared on social media by Maria Lvova Belova, Russia’s children’s rights ombudsman. Andriy Ermak, head of the Ukrainian President’s Office, confirmed that Ermokhin had returned to Ukraine, and thanked UNICEF and Qatari negotiators for facilitating his return, the Associated Press reported.

Yermokhin’s parents died two years ago, before Russia invaded Ukraine. Early in the war, he was moved from the coastal city of Mariupol, where he had been living with a cousin who was his legal guardian, and placed with a foster family in the Moscow area and given Russian citizenship, according to Ukrainian lawyer Katerina Bobrovska. Bobrovska, who represents the teen and his 26-year-old cousin Valeria Yermukhin, previously told the AP that Yermukhin repeatedly expressed a desire to return home and spoke daily about “arriving in Ukraine and his relatives.” The teenager reportedly tried to return home alone earlier this year. When he turned eighteen, he would have been eligible to be drafted into the Russian army.

Yermokhin was one of thousands of children transferred to Russia from the occupied regions of Ukraine. This practice prompted the International Criminal Court in March to charge Russian President Vladimir Putin and Children’s Rights Commissioner Lvova Belova with war crimes. The court in The Hague, Netherlands, issued an arrest warrant for Putin and Lvova Belova. The Kremlin rejected the arrest orders as invalid. Lvova-Belova said the children were taken to Russia for their safety, and were not kidnapped – a claim widely rejected by the international community. However, the Children’s Rights Ombudsman announced in an online statement on 10 November that Yermokhin would be allowed to return to Ukraine via a third country.

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(Read more stories about the war between Russia and Ukraine.)