VIENNA, February 12. /TASS/. Over 150 Russian children have returned from conflict zones in Syria and Iraq in the past year, Russian Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights Anna Kuznetsova said during the joint high-level OSCE conference "Foreign Terrorist Fighters - Addressing Current Challenges."
The official added that she had personally visited Iraq and Syria seeking the handover of underage Russian citizens. "A few days ago, we managed to return 26 Russian children from Syria. In the past year, approximately 156 underage citizens of the Russian Federation have returned home from Syria and Iraq," Kuznetsova said.
She added that since December 2018, Russia had organized seven flights to return Russian children home from conflict zones: four from Iraq and three from Syria. All the children have been returned into custody of their relatives. The official noted that the majority of children are under 4 years old, which eases the process of rehabilitation.
The problem of Russian children in Iraq and Syria emerged after certain Russian citizens left the country to join the Islamic State terrorist group (outlawed in Russia) in Iraq and Syria. They concluded marriages and fathered children, or brought their wives and children with them. Many of those children were orphaned as a result of hostilities. In 2017, terrorists started sending them to militant training camps for indoctrination and combat training, expecting that one day they would join their ranks.
The active work to return those children to Russia from conflict zones is underway upon instructions from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A special commission was set up in 2017 by the office of the Russian children’s rights ombudsperson to help evacuate Russian children from areas of combat operations. The commission elaborated an algorithm of repatriating Russian children jointly with the Russian Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Emergencies, the Ministry of Health and the Interior Ministry.