First Christmas for a family reunited with their child deported to Russia

LCI (25.12.2023) – For several months, Natalia had only one wish: to find her son Artem. The 16-year-old had been abducted by Russian forces in September 2022 in eastern Ukraine. The teenager was finally able to return home, thanks to his mother’s determination.

The family’s ordeal began on the day Artem was abducted. The boy was loaded into a lorry with 30 other pupils from his school. They were taken to a boarding school 200 km from Lugansk, a town under Russian occupation. “They told me that if my parents didn’t come back for us, we would have Russian identity papers”, Roman, a friend of Artem’s who had also been deported, told LCI.

“I just wanted to walk to pick him up”

The local authorities then explained to Artem that, if no one came to fetch him within three months, he would be adopted by a family in Russia, in Rostov-on-Don, a town on the Sea of Azov, some 60 kilometres from the Ukrainian border. When she realised that her son was being deported, Natalia was distraught. “You sit down and think: I’ve only got one child. I just wanted to walk to pick him up”, she told LCI.

After several months, the young boy managed to contact his mother and tell her where he was. Through an association, Natalia travelled to Belarus, then to Moscow, where she took a taxi to the boarding school where her son was being held. It was the end of a long ordeal for her son: “When I saw him, I knew I was going back to my country”, explained the teenager. “I only have one word for it: happiness”, says Natalia, who celebrated her first Christmas with her family since being reunited with her son. (Video HERE)

“The Russian soldiers came back to take me with them”: deported Ukrainian children testify

Kiev has often accused Moscow of deporting “tens of thousands” of “kidnapped” Ukrainian children from the occupied territories. According to the wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Olena Zelenska, more than 19,000 of them were transferred or taken by force to occupied regions. Only 386 have been brought back to Ukraine, she said in September.

The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for the “illegal deportation” of thousands of Ukrainian children since February 2022.

See here HRWF report on the deportation of Ukrainian children by and to Russia (8 pages) which was submitted to the UN Committee on the rights of the child which will meet in January 2024 in Geneva to review Russia’s compliance or not with international conventions.

See video testimonies on Save Ukraine


Photo: Artem repatriated from inside Russia by his mother