The recent imposition of entry restrictions by Russia on Ukrainian nationals has significantly obstructed the reunification of Ukrainian families with children who were forcibly deported.
As reported by the BBC's Russian Service, these measures, effective from October 16, prevent Ukrainians over 14 from entering Russia through land borders with Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, or Finland, leaving only Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport as a viable entry point.
Non-governmental organizations have voiced their concerns, stating that these new barriers severely disrupt the delicate process of repatriating children unlawfully taken by Russia. The Ukrainian Network for Children's Rights has highlighted the dire consequences of these restrictions on the efforts to return over 19,500 children reportedly deported to Russia since the war began. To date, only 386 children have been successfully returned.
The logistics of travel now present a daunting challenge for Ukrainian mothers and close female relatives, who are generally required to retrieve their children from Russia. Previously, they would travel through Baltic countries and re-enter Ukraine via the same route. However, with these paths now closed, the complexity and cost of travel have escalated, compounded by the difficulty of obtaining necessary travel documents and the challenge of returning children without passports.
The Save Ukraine Foundation, dedicated to reuniting families with their deported children, has confirmed the increased complexity of their mission. Spokesperson Olga Erokhina conveyed to the BBC that assistance is now tailored to individual families and children, rather than the larger groups they could help before.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Presidential Commissioner for Children's Rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, for their alleged involvement in the abduction of Ukrainian children, underscoring the gravity of the situation.
This development not only highlights the ongoing humanitarian crisis but also the intricate geopolitical entanglements that continue to affect the lives of the most vulnerable.