Edited time: July 13, 2014 13:00
Valeria Lutkovskaya sent an open letter to the head of Russia’s border guards, Colonel General Vladimir Kulishov, demanding the passage of orphans leaving eastern Ukrainian war zones be prohibited. She also published the letter on her Facebook page.
Lutkovskaya accused Russia of violating the rights of Ukrainian orphan children, who are being admitted to Russia “without proper paperwork.”
She claimed that armed members of the resistance movement in the Donetsk region are forcing the directors of two orphanages “at gunpoint” to let children travel to Russia. The directors of both schools allegedly refused to prepare the proper documents.
Lutkovskaya said that according to her sources, plans were afoot to send 54 children from the Maryinka Educational Orphanage and 93 children from Educational Orphanage # 1 in Donetsk to Russia on Sunday morning.
Lutkovskaya called on General Kulishov to take “decisive measures” and prevent these children from crossing the Russian border.
“Considering the fact that both Russia and Ukraine have signed the UN convention of children’s rights, Article 11 of the convention obliges signatories to take measures against unlawful transportation of children abroad,” Lutkovskaya said.
In case children get to Russia, Lutkovskaya promised to regard the issue as “kidnapping” and would apply to international organizations to have the children returned.
At this point, there is no information on whether the children have started their journey to Russia, or if the buses transporting them have crossed the Russian border.
“Ukraine’s ombudsmen requests not to let orphans into Russia, probably thinking they'd be better off bombed,” tweeted Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.
The Russian children’s rights ombudsman, Pavel Astakhov, slammed his Ukrainian counterpart Lutkovskaya for “suddenly becoming aware of the fate of Ukrainian orphans in the combat zone… only to demand not to let them into Russia,” Astakhov wrote in Instagram.
“Obviously, she’s more concerned with this, instead of the children dying of shells and bullets from Kiev’s army,” he said.
A good deed for a true human rights defender would be “handcuffing herself to President Poroshenko to follow him until he stops the elimination of his own people,” Astakhov stressed, whereas “forbidding the escape of orphans forgotten under the crossfire is vile and inhuman.”
According to unconfirmed reports at least 11 children, one of them a mere five months old, died in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions since Kiev began the “anti-terrorist operation” against the supporters of federalization of Ukraine.
In the lack of humanitarian corridors denied by Kiev, for a number of orphanages the only way to escape the war zone is to Russia.
“There are over 90,000 orphans in Ukraine today and every day of civil war unleashed by Kiev politicians only multiplies the suffering, pain of losses and number of orphans,” Astakhov stressed, adding that “orphans should not be held hostage to military and political ambitions.”
Pavel Astakhov estimated the total number of Ukrainian children that have already fled to Russia as “over 22,000.” Out of this number there are at least 538 orphans.
There have been repeated reports of the Ukrainian army and national Guards shelling schools, kindergartens and orphanages over the last month.
The latest news from the Donetsk region, from which the children are being evacuated, suggests that Ukrainian troops are shelling three small cities: Ilovaisk, Seversk and Maryinka, the latter suffering a particularly heavy assault.
Maryinka is exactly the city from which 54 orphaned children have just been evacuated, to gain a safe haven in Russia.
30 civilians were killed on Saturday by pro-Kiev military forces in overnight shelling on Maryinka, a town near Donetsk, in southeastern Ukraine. There is also, as yet, unconfirmed reports that the Maryinka orphanage building has been destroyed.
In the neighboring city of Lugansk, six civilians died on Saturday in shelling by Kiev’s troops and eight more were taken to hospital.
The Sails of Hope orphanage was severely damaged by artillery fire in the city of Slavyansk in eastern Ukraine in late May. Fortunately, there were no casualties among the children, all of whom were successfully evacuated from the building on May 19.