Russian children's ombudswoman says 'impossible to remain calm' seeing situation in Gaza

Russian children's ombudswoman says 'impossible to remain calm' seeing situation in Gaza

Maria Lvova-Belova says she is worried about what's happening to Palestinians in Gaza

By Elena Teslova

MOSCOW (AA) – It is impossible to remain calm in the face of what is happening in Gaza, Russia's Commissioner for Children's Rights Maria Lvova-Belova said on Thursday, referring to the deaths and maiming of a large number of children in the ongoing Israeli assault, which has also left many more orphans.

During a press conference in Moscow, the ombudswoman expressed sympathy and compassion to everyone affected by the tragedy.

"It is impossible to look calmly at this (what is happening in Gaza) calmly, and as the Commissioner for Children's Rights, and as a mother with many children, I express sympathy and compassion and am very worried about the situation that exists," she said.

Russia has received no requests for assistance in defending children's rights from Gaza, Lvova-Belova said, adding that the only case it has dealt with is the situation of two underage girls who arrived in Russia without their legal representative.

"The Ministry of Emergency Situations asked us to accommodate these girls until their father arrived from Grozny (city). We are handling this issue and providing assistance," she noted.

The ombudswoman added that some Palestinian families have been evacuated to Russia, with assistance from human rights organizations in the areas where they live.

More than 37,400 Palestinians have since been killed in Gaza, most of them women and children, and more than 85,600 others injured, according to local health authorities.

More than eight months into the Israeli war, vast tracts of Gaza lie in ruins amid a crippling blockade of food, clean water and medicine.

Israel is accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice, whose latest ruling ordered Tel Aviv to immediately halt its military operation in the southern city of Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinians had sought refuge from the war before it was invaded on May 6.

- Repatriation of children from Syria, Ukraine

Lvova-Belova noted that her organization is also engaged in the repatriation of Russian children from war zones and since 2023, 122 children have been returned to Russia from Syria.

"In Oct. 2023, we organized the transportation of a girl from Iraq, who was imprisoned there with her mother. We have planned another trip there in early July," she said.

Regarding Ukraine, Lvova-Belova said in the spring of this year, she held the first-ever direct negotiations with Ukraine's representatives in Qatar, during which the parties exchanged lists of children for return.

According to the approved document, 29 children should return to Ukraine and 11 children should return to Russia, she added.

The ombudswoman emphasized that this figure, verified and confirmed by Kyiv, contradicts the data mentioned in the complaints, which served as the basis for issuing the International Criminal Court warrant against her, mentioning "tens of thousands of children deported to Russia."

As for the warrant itself is concerned, she said it has no bearing on her work but does impede family reunification processes.

"Disinformation harms families themselves as relatives do not trust state and international institutions, do not seek help for a long time, and as a result cannot reunite. The politicization of the children's topic by the Ukrainian side hinders the humanitarian process and is directed against the children themselves," she stressed.

Lvova-Belova also thanked the International Committee of the Red Cross, Qatar, and the Vatican for their help in the effort to return children from war zones and mediate with Ukraine.

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