Many Ukrainians have made the decision to return to their homeland

People at the railway station in Lviv. Photo Kovalchuk Victor UNIAN

On May 25, the Minister of Social Security and Labour Monika Navickienė and her Ukrainian counterpart Maryna Lazebna signed a joint agreement condemning Russia’s amendments to the law allowing Ukrainian children to be adopted in Russia. Ms Lazebna confirmed that around 100 000 children are currently being taken to Russian-held territories, Andresa Repšytė writes in TV3.lt .

“In Lithuania, we are continuing to talk not only about cooperation in helping the Ukrainian people fleeing the war but also about continuing to help them on the Euro-integration course – something we started to coordinate with the Ukrainian government more than a year ago,” Navickienė told journalists on Wednesday.

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The Minister noted that the main purpose of Mr Lazebna’s visit to Lithuania was to sign a joint agreement initiated by him on the high-risk actions of Russia in facilitating the adoption of children who are abducted from Ukrainian territory.

“Currently, there are 1300 unaccompanied minors in Lithuania, of which 1108 are single unaccompanied minors from Ukraine who have arrived with people related by kinship, 206 children have arrived alone. Fifteen are in the care of Lithuanian families,” Navickienė said, adding that the children who arrive in groups are not separated but are placed together.

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“Out of the 900 families who expressed their willingness to help, to contribute to the temporary care, 15 families were needed. To this day, that is the number of children living in Lithuanian families. As far as the legal status is concerned, all of them have been placed under guardianship in Lithuania to have a legal representative in Lithuania until they can return to Ukraine,” the Minister said.

She also confirmed that a joint statement was signed during the meeting on the protection of these children, the services provided to them, and that they will live in Lithuania until it is safe for them to return to Ukraine.

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“We also discussed the situation of all Ukrainian people fleeing the war in Lithuania: how many of them there are, what services they receive, what social guarantees they have. I informed the Minister that today more than 10,000 Ukrainian people have found jobs and are working in Lithuania. We are also exchanging information on how many people intend or want to return to Ukraine. We can see that many people want to return to their homeland – there are over 700 people who have made a decision and announced that they are returning to Ukraine,” said Ms Navickienė.

“Lithuania will help [Ukraine] as much as it can because this is not only their war but also ours. We are well aware that the price of your freedom is the price of freedom for all of us”, she added.

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The ministers will sign a joint statement condemning Russia’s drafting of amendments to the law allowing for the simplified adoption in Russia of Ukrainian children displaced from Ukraine’s Donbas and Luhansk regions.

Some 54 000 Ukrainians have arrived in Lithuania since the start of the war in Ukraine.

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100,000 children have been taken from Ukraine to Russian-held territories

During the press conference, Ms Lazebna thanked Lithuania for its assistance to Ukraine and for hosting the war refugees.

“The Minister and I also talked a lot about Ukrainian children because the manifesto that we signed is a manifesto for the whole world, calling for the respect of international law, because children are now being deprived of this right: the right to live, the right to learn,” she said.

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The Minister confirmed that 234 children have now been killed and 669 injured in Ukraine.

“We have facts that children are being taken to the Russian Federation under duress. International law states that when people of one ethnic group are forcibly transported to another ethnic group, it is a case of genocide. We want to draw attention to the fact that when children are not only forcibly transported, there are also cases of child rape,” he said.

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Ms Lazebna pointed out that 19 children came with her from Kharkiv to Lithuania on Tuesday, including six children under the age of one year and six children with disabilities.

“We do not know yet how many children died in Mariupol, we will have to find out”, added the visiting Minister.

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More than 100,000 children from Ukraine have been taken to Russian territory or to uncontrolled Ukrainian lands, mainly to the city of Donetsk.

“The largest number of children from Mariupol is 600. We are trying to keep in touch with them. We are trying to return the children to the controlled territories of Ukraine, although it is not so easy. We do this with the help of third countries.

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The worst thing is when, in the heat of the war, people are told about the green corridors that have been opened, which turn out to be filtration camps. Interrogations are taking place there. We have documented cases where children are taken away from their parents and taken to the territory of the Russian Federation,” she confirmed.

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