“We have to do something. (Our) orphanage numbers are 600 kids and 246 of them are kids with special needs who need constant care, so for these kids it is even worse. They have to have doctors and nurses with them at all times,” Prystaiko said.
“We are trying to get everyone out but it is not easy,” he said, adding outside international organizations that could come in to help would be “extremely useful.”
Canadian and Ukrainian charities have stepped in and are trying to get 144 orphaned kids — all in one Donetsk orphanage — to a Canadian-run camp in the Carpathian Mountains, outside the conflict zone.
The director of the Donetsk orphanage has been threatened by pro-Russian separatists not to move the orphans out of the area or harm will come to her. The separatists believe the only safe place for them to go is Russia and they have tried to get the director to sign papers agreeing to this move but so far, the director has refused, said Julia Vovkaluk, of Kyiv’s New Generation International Charitable Fund.
The fund is a non-governmental organization that is trying to help the Canadian non-profit Help Us Help The Children get the kids to camp.
Any attempt by separatists to take the children from Donetsk and move them to Russia would be tantamount to kidnapping, the Ukrainian government charged Tuesday.
Ukraine’s deputy minister of education and science Pavlo Polyanskyi said Tuesday local authorities are taking “all measures to prevent kidnapping of these children.
“All children are still in Donetsk. But terrorists threaten to use force if Ukrainian authorities tries to take them away,” Polyanskyi said in a email to the Star. “Ukrainian authorities and the director of the children’s house refuse to give them permission for sending these children out of Ukraine.
“We hope that the problem will be solved very shortly,” he added.
The ministry is in the process of approving the papers for the children so they can leave the area — once safe passage is secured, Vovkaluk said Tuesday. The kids, as wards of the state, need permission from the government in order to move.
“The children are fine and everything at the orphanage is rather calm. Everyday life is continuing,” said Vovkaluk, who is in constant contact with the orphanage director.
“They are still waiting for their documents to be settled so they can travel,” she said.
Fighting in the east has intensified and there are no signs of de-escalation. On Monday a Ukrainian military plane was shot down and on Tuesday, Ukrainian officials blamed Russia for carrying out air strikes that killed 11 people in Snizhne, near the Russian border.
At a high-level meeting in Kyiv on Tuesday, government officials said they will appeal to international organizations dealing with human rights, including the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the United Nations Children’s Fund, to help them ensure children caught in conflict zones are evacuated to safety.