The meeting was also attended by the UNICEF team led by Head of the Fund's Mission to Ukraine Murat Shahin, the President’s Office informs.
Yermak thanked Bloom for his continuous long-term support for Ukraine. He noted that the actor's current visit is another signal to the world of support for Ukraine, which is resisting full-scale Russian aggression.
The Head of the President's Office also praised the important mission of Orlando Bloom as a UNICEF ambassador in helping children.
"Therefore, we want to discuss with you the issue of protecting Ukrainian children, which is very important to us. I am talking about the illegal deportation of Ukrainian children by Russia. We faced a situation where in the 21st century there is no mechanism in the world – no organization – that would know how or be able to overcome this problem," Yermak stressed.
As the Head of the President's Office emphasized, this problem covers various cases. First, it is about children who were taken from their parents by the Russian occupiers and sent to the territory of Russia under the pretext of recovery. These children are still being held there.
The second category of children, Yermak noted, are those illegally deported by Russia from the occupied Ukrainian territories. The children lost their parents, but have relatives in Ukraine: a grandmother, grandfather, aunt, or uncle, which is confirmed by documents. The occupiers do not return children to their relatives but give them for adoption in the territory of Russia.
The third category of children is the most difficult: young Ukrainians illegally taken to the Russian Federation from orphanages located in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.
"President Volodymyr Zelensky and the team of the President’s Office are currently working to return our children, including those children who do not have relatives. We can provide them with better living conditions than they have in Russia," Yermak noted.
According to him, the reform of orphanages is underway in Ukraine, as a result of which a system based on family forms of upbringing will be created and children will grow up in families.
Yermak also spoke about the establishment of an international working group with the participation of members of the government and representatives of international institutions under the patronage of the Office of the President of Ukraine which is constantly working on the issue of the return of illegally deported children.
Advisor – President's Commissioner for Children's Rights and Children's Rehabilitation Daria Herasymchuk said that the Ukrainian side had so far identified the names of 16,207 children deported to the Russian Federation or Belarus or forcibly relocated to the occupied territories of Ukraine. Almost 200 of them are orphans and children deprived of parental care. At the same time, according to her, there are several hundreds of thousands of such illegally deported children, but it is currently impossible to establish their data because Ukraine does not have access to the territories temporarily occupied by Russia.
"We managed to return 327 children, including 17 a few days ago. And we know what happens to them there. They lose the opportunity to speak Ukrainian – they are forced to speak Russian and study Russian culture. They are also beaten and prevented from communicating with their parents and relatives – they immediately take away children's mobile phones and say that their parents no longer need them," she said.
Herasymchuk emphasized that such actions against Ukrainian children have signs of genocide and the International Criminal Court has already issued an arrest warrant for the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin.
As Yermak noted, Ukraine calls on UNICEF to intensify its efforts to solve the issue of the return of deported children, in particular by involving its ambassadors around the world.
"We are talking about this with the UN, UNICEF, and the structures of the European Union. But we need people ambassadors, pioneers, who would tell the world about this problem: thousands of Ukrainian children are illegally deported to Russia, and they all need to be returned home, to Ukraine. We would be happy if you help us in this because children are our future," the Head of the President's Office emphasized.
For his part, Orlando Bloom expressed his readiness to tell the world about what is happening to Ukrainian children. At the same time, he emphasized that for greater efficiency, a strategy is needed that will guarantee the rescue of children and their successful return home.
The UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador also spoke about his trip to the village of Demydiv in Kyiv region and meeting a large family. There are nine children in this family, four of whom are adopted. According to the British actor, this family is an excellent example of Ukraine of the future, where children who lost their parents grow up in families, not in orphanages.
Photo credit: President’s Office