July 14, 2024

A 17-year-old orphaned student from Mariupol in Ukraine, abducted by Russia after Moscow’s invasion forces captured the city, who faced the prospect of being forced to fight in the Russian army, may have an opportunity to return home to Ukraine soon.

After the Russian military occupation of Mariupol began in May last year, Bohdan Yermokhin was illegally abducted to Russia, where the teenager was forced to undergo a medical examination, after which he was found fit for military service, Radio Liberty reported on Nov. 13.

However, the teenager’s lawyer told Hromadske Radio that this week Yermokhin is to leave Russia for a third country, although it is not yet known where the teenager will be transferred.

Read also: Russia’s ‘Hitler Youth’ – Russian occupiers in Crimea organize military training for children

At the age of eight, Yermokhin lost his parents. After that, he lived in a foster family and a family-type home. Since 2021, Yermokhin had been under state care. That year, he entered the Mariupol Higher Metallurgical Vocational School.

<img class="caas-img caas-lazy has-preview" alt="Radio Liberty” data-src=”https://thenewswave.xyz/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/17-year-old-boy-abducted-from-mariupol-facing-draft-in-russia-may-be-returned-to-ukraine.png”><img alt="Radio Liberty” src=”https://thenewswave.xyz/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/17-year-old-boy-abducted-from-mariupol-facing-draft-in-russia-may-be-returned-to-ukraine.png” class=”caas-img”>

Radio Liberty

After the start of the full-scale invasion and occupation of his native Mariupol by the Russian army, although Bohdan had a cousin in Ukraine, he was taken to Donetsk and then illegally transferred to Russia.

There, by court order in July 2022, a doctor, Irina Rudnitskaya, was granted custody of Yermokhin. The woman worked at the front during the war in Chechnya. Around that time, the teenager received a Russian passport, even though he was legally a citizen of Ukraine.

Read also: Nearly 400 Ukrainian kids held in Russia, Kremlin children’s official says – real total much higher

In March 2023, Yermokhin tried to return to Ukraine on his own, but Russian security forces caught him on the border with Belarus.

“Back in April-May (2023 — ed.), Bohdan Yermokhin himself sent a letter to our Ombudsperson’s email address asking for help in returning to Ukraine,” said Kateryna Bobrovska, the teenager’s lawyer.

“Our Ombudsman wrote an official appeal to the Russian Human Rights Commissioner, Tatyana Moskalkova. This request for help was completely ignored.”

On Aug. 28, 2023, Bohdan met with the Russian Children’s Rights Ombudsperson Maria Lvova-Belova, who, according to his lawyer, compelled him to write a statement against returning to Ukraine. That same day, Yermokhin penned a retraction letter to Bobrovska.

“Such pain is happening in the world,” the teenager commented on the process of his return to his homeland.

“I just want to go home. I just want to know that tomorrow everything in my life will be as it was before, but it won’t be. And don’t you dare prevent me from going! We are holding on to the last.”

On Oct. 24, Bohdan met with Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova. Under the media spotlight, Yermokhin was allowed to speak via video link with his cousin, who remains his official guardian in Ukraine. The teenager was asked if he wanted to return to his cousin’s in Ukraine, to which he replied in the affirmative.

<img class="caas-img caas-lazy has-preview" alt="Radio Liberty” data-src=”https://thenewswave.xyz/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/17-year-old-boy-abducted-from-mariupol-facing-draft-in-russia-may-be-returned-to-ukraine-1.png”><img alt="Radio Liberty” src=”https://thenewswave.xyz/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/17-year-old-boy-abducted-from-mariupol-facing-draft-in-russia-may-be-returned-to-ukraine-1.png” class=”caas-img”>

Radio Liberty

After that, Moskalkova said: “In this case, we have to let you go, put you under guardianship, I will do everything to make it happen as soon as possible.” However, after the teenager’s cousin collected all the necessary documents and sent them to Russia, the latter stopped responding. Subsequently, Russian officials said that they could not return Bohdan because the Ukrainian court’s decision on custody was illegitimate in Russia’s eyes.

On Nov. 18, Yermokhin will turn 18. Recently, he received a letter demanding that he report to the military commissariat a month after his birthday. Bobrovska thinks Bohdan may be subject to conscription, which has been extended in Russia until the end of December 2023.

“The guy was found fit for military service,” Bobrovska said.

“What I saw indicates that he will be called up for service, which means he will be sent to fight against Ukraine in the war. He is distraught and anxious. And this very fact, what is happening to Bohdan Yermokhin, is a confirmation of another crime — Russia’s unjustified obstruction of the repatriation of Ukrainian children. This is a crime for which Russia can be held accountable at the international level.”

Read also: Russia targets more ICC judges in reprisal for Hague’s charges against Putin for child abduction

Compelling a person from an occupied area to serve in the armed forced of the occupying power is a violation of the Geneva conventions.

The lawyer also said that the teenager received the first summons demanding that he undergo a medical examination. Lvova-Belova denies that Bohdan received a summons.

“Since Bohdan is very active now in wanting to return to his cousin, we, of course, support all this and do our best to facilitate it,” said the Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Russian Federation.

“As of today, we have reached an agreement on a simplified procedure for documents with Moscow Oblast. And I really hope that next week this meeting will take place and Bohdan will go home.”

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Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine

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