President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy took part in the opening of the Center for the Protection of Children's Rights, which will counteract Russia's crimes against Ukrainian children.
The Head of State inspected the children's leisure corner and the premises where the Center's specialists work according to the Barnahus model. This is an interagency center for children who have become victims of crimes or witnessed them, where relevant specialists can receive information from children and their families, conduct medical examinations, including for forensic purposes, and provide the necessary therapeutic assistance.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy also took part in the presentation of the Bring Kids Back UA action plan. Pursuant to the President's instruction, government officials have developed this comprehensive action plan that unites the efforts of the Ukrainian authorities, foreign governments and international organizations to bring all young Ukrainian citizens back home.
The Head of State thanked for the creation of the Center for the Protection of Children's Rights and the development of an action plan for the return of young Ukrainians home.
"The first step has been taken, 371 children are at home in Ukraine. We will do everything to bring them all back, and the key meaning is probably in the name of the program Bring Kids Back UA. I sincerely wish us this - to bring all the children back home to Ukraine, and I fully support this program. We want to bring the children back as soon as possible. This is the most important thing," Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.
The event was also attended by Head of the Presidential Office Andriy Yermak, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine Iryna Vereshchuk, Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin, Advisor – President's Commissioner for Children's Rights and Children's Rehabilitation Daria Herasymchuk, Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights Dmytro Lubinets, and Head of the Coordination Center for the Development of Family Upbringing and Child Care Iryna Tuliakova.
The implementation of the Bring Kids Back UA action plan will be coordinated by the Coordination Council for Child Protection and Safety under the President of Ukraine chaired by Head of the Presidential Office Andriy Yermak.
"Today we are presenting to the President a developed program: what exactly we have to do to return all our Ukrainian children who were illegally deported, to ensure their rights, which were violated by the Russians, and, of course, to do everything to return them the childhood and the life they deserve," said Andriy Yermak.
The Bring Kids Back UA action plan unites the efforts of Ukrainian government agencies, international and non-governmental organizations, and concerned citizens who are ready to work to return all illegally deported Ukrainian children to their homeland. Many of Ukraine's foreign partners have also expressed their support and readiness to help protect the rights of young Ukrainian citizens.
Advisor – President's Commissioner for Children's Rights and Children's Rehabilitation Daria Herasymchuk informed the Head of State in detail about the blocks that make up the Bring Kids Back UA plan. In particular, these are:
- return of Ukrainian children deported by Russia;
- development of family-based forms of upbringing;
- reintegration of children returned from Russia, organization of their socialization and educational initiatives;
- Child Rights Protection Center;
- recording crimes and bringing Russia to justice;
- inter-parliamentary cooperation;
- communication and public events.
Each of the blocks is assigned to responsible government agencies.
Head of the Coordination Center for the Development of Family Upbringing and Child Care Iryna Tuliakova noted that an algorithm for accompanying a child returning to Ukraine has already been developed, and that all necessary services are being unified.
"Today, all authorities are working to create the necessary conditions for returning children," she emphasized.
Dmytro Lubinets, Ukrainian Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights, informed that 371 Ukrainian children have been returned to date. He expressed belief that the opening of the Center for the Protection of Children's Rights will demonstrate to both Ukrainian society and the international community that children are a top priority for the Ukrainian state and the President.
"The state of Ukraine is fighting for everyone: for prisoners of war, for civilian hostages, for children. It is clear that the main task is to return and achieve fair accountability of the Russian Federation and those criminals who actually continue to kill the future of our country," emphasized Dmytro Lubinets.
Andriy Kostin, for his part, informed about the work of the Prosecutor General's Office to protect Ukrainian children. According to him, a group of PGO prosecutors recently returned from Kherson region, where, in cooperation with representatives of the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, they collected new evidence of Russian war crimes, including the illegal deportation of Ukrainian children.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy also spoke with the family of Mariupol defenders who were held in Russian captivity and released as part of a prisoner exchange. The father, Ihor Dmytrykovskyi, who served as a sailor of the medical service and a driver of a military hospital in Mariupol, was released on April 26, 2023, after a year in enemy captivity. The mother, Kateryna Skopina, a lieutenant in a medical unit, was released after nine months of captivity on December 6, 2022. The daughter of Ihor Dmytrykovskyi and Kateryna Skopina, Anna-Maria Dmytrykovska, was forcibly taken to Russia by the occupiers. The girl was returned to Ukraine on May 10, 2023.
Ihor Dmytrykovskyi and Kateryna Skopina thanked the Head of State for the release from captivity and the return of their daughter. They presented the President with a flag with the symbols of the 503rd separate mechanized brigade and a souvenir with the image of Mariupol.