Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has claimed that Moscow has forcibly taken more than 2,00,000 children from his country to Russia. The president suggested that it's part of Russia's agenda to shore up the country's population.
"Russia continues to forcibly move both adults and children into mostly remote areas of Russia, underscoring that this is one of Moscow's most heinous war crimes," Zelenksy said in a video address on Thursday.
Zelensky Claimed Russia Forcibly Deported Thousands of Ukrainians
He also claimed that these children include orphans, some children with parents, and others who were separated from their families in the war.
In his address, Zelensky accused Russia of forcibly deporting hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians from the territory. The comedian-turned-president also called Moscow's campaign as one of Russia's most heinous war crimes in history.
Zelensky pointed out that the Russian state disperses Ukrainian people "on its territory, settles our citizens, in particular, in remote regions. The purpose of this criminal policy is not just to steal people, but to make deportees forget about Ukraine and not be able to return," according to New York Times.
Putin's Plan to Shore Up Population
Zelensky suggested that it's a plan of President Vladimir Putin to shore up the country's population as Russia lost thousands of its troops in the Ukraine war and was forced to recall some retired army personnel to fight. A number of active servicemen also refused to participate in the war. Russia's massive losses in Ukraine have forced the country to rethink its troops' numbers in the army, which is falling drastically to a new low. Moscow is exploring ways to increase its troop numbers as it could be game-changing if conflict widens.
But Moscow has denied Zelensky's claim, underlining that people are not being forced to leave Ukraine but are being evacuated to ensure their safety.
Russian Defense Ministry on Thursday revealed that 18,886 people including 2,663 children were evacuated from eastern Ukraine's war zones.
Moscow has also claimed that since the beginning of the war 259,819 children have been evacuated from Ukraine.
While eyewitnesses have contradicted Russia's claim that it offered humanitarian relief to Ukrainians.