NATIONAL NEWS

Red Cross confirms contact with Russia about Ukrainian kids

Apr 7, 2023, 2:09 PM

FILE - Russian Presidential Commissioner for Children's Rights Maria Lvova-Belova speaks to Russian...

FILE - Russian Presidential Commissioner for Children's Rights Maria Lvova-Belova speaks to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence, outside Moscow, Russia, on Feb. 16, 2023. Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, who is being sought for war crimes, will brief a controversial U.N. meeting Russia called to counter what it claims is Western disinformation about Ukrainian children taken to Russia.(Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The International Committee of the Red Cross says it has been in contact with a Russian official suspected of war crimes as it works for the return of Ukrainian children who were deported to Russia.

The ICRC’s contacts with Russian children’s rights commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova marked the first confirmation of high-level international intervention to reunite families with children who were forcibly deported.

ICRC spokesman Jason Straziuso said Thursday the organization is in contact with Lvova-Belova “in line with its mandate to restore contact between separated families and facilitate reunification where feasible.”

That goes beyond the engagement of other agencies. The U.N. children’s agency UNICEF said it has also been in contact with Russian officials about the children, but spokesman Kurtis Cooper told The Associated Press that UNICEF “has not received feedback on our offer to facilitate reunifications processes.” Refugees International denied any contact with the Russians — despite Lvova-Belova’s claim it had contacted her.

Deportations of Ukrainian children have been a concern since International Criminal Court increased pressure on Russia when it issued arrest warrants on March 17 for Lvova-Belova and Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing them of abducting children from Ukraine.

An AP investigation revealed Lvova-Belova’s involvement in the abductions and found an open effort to put Ukrainian children up for adoption in Russia.

Lvova-Belova told an informal U.N. Security Council meeting Wednesday that the children were taken for their safety, not abducted — a claim widely rejected by the international community.

Lvova-Belova spoke by video link at a meeting called by Russia and opposed by Western countries that sent low-level diplomats instead of their ambassadors. Representatives from four countries — the U.S., UK, Albania and Malta — walked out when she began her remarks.

She said Russia has had no official communication with Ukrainian authorities about the children, but added her office has met with representatives of the ICRC, UNICEF, and Refugees International, and provided “all available information about the situation of children.”

ICRC spokesman Straziuso on Thursday confirmed its contact with Lvova-Belova.

Straziuso said the reunification process includes tracing family members, establishing and maintaining contact, “obtaining relevant consents and documentation, reuniting families, and seeking to clarify the fate and whereabouts of those who remain missing.”

For the ICRC to move forward, he said, families must first file a tracing request with details about the child with the Red Cross.

The exact number of Ukrainian children taken to Russia has been difficult to determine, and numbers from the warring countries differ vastly.

A statement posted Wednesday on Twitter by Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsya, said more than 19,500 children had been seized from their families or orphanages and forcibly deported.

Lvova-Belova said that since February 2022, Russia has taken in more than 5 million Ukrainians, including 700,000 children — all with parents, relatives or legal guardians except for 2,000 from orphanages in the eastern Donbas.

To date, she said, about 1,300 children have been returned to their orphanages, 400 were sent to Russian orphanages and 358 were placed in foster homes. She claimed no Ukrainian children have been adopted. ___ Associated Press writer Jamey Keaten contributed to this report from Geneva

National News

Kimberly Cheatle, Director, U.S. Secret Service, testifies during a House Committee on Oversight an...

Associated Press

Conservatives use shooting at Trump rally to attack DEI efforts at Secret Service

As Congressional members on both sides of the aisle grilled U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle Monday on how a gunman was able to fire shots at former President Donald Trump in an assassination attempt, several Republican lawmakers seized on gender and the agency’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts as among the reasons for the […]

4 minutes ago

Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks announces the Pentagon's new Arctic Strategy during a pr...

Associated Press

Pentagon Arctic report calls for more investment in sensors, equipment to keep up with Russia, China

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Defense Department must invest more to upgrade sensors, communications and space-based technologies in the Arctic to keep pace with China and Russia who are increasingly operating there, including in joint military exercises, a new Pentagon strategy says. Saying that now is “a critical time” for the Arctic, Deputy Defense Secretary […]

39 minutes ago

FILE - Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, participates in the Global Citizen NOW conf...

Associated Press

Darren Walker, president of Ford Foundation, will step down by the end of 2025

NEW YORK (AP) — If there are rock stars in philanthropy, Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation, is one of them. And he’s about to exit the stage. Walker, 64, has been named one of Rolling Stone’s “25 People Shaping the Future” and Time’s “100 Most Influential People” as he led one of […]

1 hour ago

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., leaves federal court in New York, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. Menendez has b...

Associated Press

Senate Ethics Committee starts review of Sen. Bob Menendez’s conduct following bribery conviction

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate Ethics Committee said Monday that its members had voted unanimously to review allegations that Sen. Bob Menendez violated Senate rules, building towards potential disciplinary actions against the New Jersey Democrat after he was convicted of bribery charges this month. The ethics panel could recommend that Menendez be censured or expelled, […]

1 hour ago

FILE - Christopher Dunn, right, listens to his attorney Justin Bonus from New York City during the ...

Associated Press

Missouri judge overturns the murder conviction of a man imprisoned for more than 30 years

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A Missouri judge on Monday overturned the conviction of Christopher Dunn, who has spent more than 30 years in prison for a killing he has long contended he didn’t commit. The ruling is likely to free Dunn from prison, but it wasn’t immediately clear when that would happen. He has been […]

1 hour ago

FILE - A sign hangs on the Boston Children's Hospital, Aug. 18, 2022, in Boston. A Massachusetts wo...

Associated Press

Woman gets probation for calling in hoax bomb threat at Boston Children’s Hospital

A Massachusetts woman has been sentenced to three years of probation for calling in a fake bomb threat at Boston Children’s Hospital as it faced a barrage of harassment over its surgical program for transgender youths. Catherine Leavy pleaded guilty last year in federal court to charges including making a false bomb threat. Authorities say […]

2 hours ago

Red Cross confirms contact with Russia about Ukrainian kids