Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of forcefully taking 200,000 Ukrainian children with the intent of not letting them return to their homeland.
Zelenskyy on Thursday said President Vladimir Putin's forces were pursuing a "consistent criminal policy of deporting [Ukrainian] people" into mostly remote areas of Russia, CNN reported.
Russia's aim was "to steal people" and "make deportees forget about Ukraine and not be able to return," Zelenskyy said during his nightly video address.
Those taken included children from orphanages, children taken with their parents, and others separated from their families, Business Standard reported.
Zelenskyy said his country would punish those responsible, but first it would show Russia on the battlefield that Ukraine cannot be conquered.
A Russian law enforcement source told state news agency Tass that more than 1.6 million people from Ukraine and breakaway republics in the Donbas region had crossed into Russia since the start of the Kremlin's unprovoked invasion.
"As of Wednesday morning, more than 1.6 million people, including almost 263,000 children, crossed the border," said the source, CNN reported.
Tass reported that 33,000 people, including 11,000 children, were being kept in 559 temporary accommodation centers across Russia.
The rest "have been placed with relatives and privately," the news agency said, CNN reported.
Late last month, CNN sources familiar with Western intelligence said that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians had been processed through a series of "filtration camps" in eastern Ukraine.
The people then were sent across the border to Russia as part of a systemized program of forced removal and resettlement, the sources said.
CNN in April revealed that Russian forces and allied separatist soldiers were taking Mariupol residents to a "filtration center" set up in Bezimenne, where they were registered before being sent on to Russia.
Mariupol's city council accused Russian troops of bringing Ukrainians to these filtration centers as part of a wider effort to cover up potential war crimes by "destroying" potential witnesses.
In early May, Zelenskyy alleged that Ukrainians had been forced to move to Russia.
"Their documents and means of communication are confiscated," Zelenskyy said, CNN reported.
Michael Carpenter, U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told CNN that the practice "would be in violation of international humanitarian law, and a war crime if people were forcibly being displaced from Ukraine to Russia."
Zelenskyy on Thursday said 243 Ukrainian children had been killed, 446 had been wounded, and 139 were missing since Putin began his forces' attack on Feb. 24.
He added that the numbers could be higher because Ukraine's government didn't have a complete picture of the situation in areas occupied by Russian troops.
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