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A Russian politician denies claims that he adopted a child who was taken from Ukraine.
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A Russian politician denies claims that he adopted a child who was taken from Ukraine.

A member of the Russian government and strong advocate of President Vladimir Putin has refuted claims from the media that he legally took in a 2-year-old girl who had been taken from a Ukrainian orphanage and gave her a new name in Russia.

Sergey Mironov, who is 70 years old and the leader of political party A Just Russia, claimed on social media that a “fake” report was created by the Ukrainian security services and their Western allies to discredit genuine Russian patriots such as himself.

Mironov’s comment, shared on X, came after the BBC and independent Russian news source Important Stories released an investigation on Thursday. The investigation revealed that Mironov had adopted a child named Margarita Prokopenko, who was reportedly brought to Moscow at just 10 months old by his current spouse.

Mironov alleged that the two media outlets have a singular objective of discrediting individuals who hold a staunch patriotic stance.

He stated that you are attempting without success, and also mentioned that Russia will be victorious in its conflict with Ukraine.

The Ukrainian parliament’s human rights commissioner informed The Associated Press that they were investigating the news report.

In March, the International Criminal Court issued warrants for the arrest of Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, who holds the position of commissioner for children’s rights in Putin’s office. They are accused of committing war crimes by allegedly being involved in the abduction of children from Ukraine.

Bill Van Esveld, the Children’s Rights Division associate director at Human Rights Watch, stated on Friday that the organization was unable to verify the BBC and Important Stories’ discoveries. However, he believes that the expulsion of the young girl to Russia, her adoption, and her name alteration could potentially qualify as a blatant war crime.

In August 2022, the BBC and Important Stories conducted an inquiry that revealed Margarita was taken from a residence in Kherson, a city in southern Ukraine, where children requiring specific medical attention or whose parents were absent were housed. The city was under the control of Russian soldiers at the time.

The media identified Inna Varlamova, 55, as the woman who visited the baby in Kherson prior to a group of Russian men taking the child from the residence. Varlamova later married Mironov. The investigation also discovered a birth certificate created several months after the incident, naming Mironov and Varlamova as the parents of a child named Marina, who was born on October 31, 2021 – which happens to be Margarita’s birthday.

The Ukrainian government has determined that approximately 20,000 minors have been transported out of the country without the consent or awareness of their parents since Russia’s invasion in February 2022. A research conducted by Yale University revealed that over 2,400 Ukrainian children between the ages of 6 and 17 have been relocated to Belarus from four regions of Ukraine that are currently under partial occupation by Russian troops.

In October 2022, the Associated Press stated that Ukrainian children were forcibly removed by Russian officials and taken to either Russia or territories controlled by Russia. These children were not given a choice and were told that their parents did not want them before being placed with Russian families and granted citizenship.

According to Vira Yastrebova, the director of Eastern Human Rights Group, a Ukrainian NGO, the Russian government is now opting to place children in Russian foster families for permanent adoption instead of temporary guardianship.

According to Yastrebova, due to the strict laws in Russia, it is challenging to obtain information about adoptions, making it simple to conceal any details about the children involved.

In September, Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador to the United States, claimed that Russia is not “kidnapping” Ukrainian children but rather “rescuing” them.

The government of Russia has announced that children will be reunited with their families upon request by a parent or guardian. However, due to the lack of information about the whereabouts of their children, many Ukrainian families are unable to submit these requests.

Reuniting children with their families in the midst of war can be a challenging process, requiring extensive paperwork and international travel. Earlier this year, Pope Francis appointed his envoy for Ukraine peace to help bring young Ukrainians back to their country.

The transfer of Ukrainian children to Russia will affect them profoundly and have “a lifelong impact,” Van Esveld told the AP in a phone interview Friday.

He stated that their inability to return to their community or country hinders their growth, access to education, and ability to form their own identity without being forced.