- Bohdan Yermokhin, 17, is set to return to Ukraine after being stuck in Russia for a year.
- In 2022, Yermokhin was taken from Mariupol to Russia, where he was sent to a foster home.
- His status in Russia surged to the fore after his lawyer said he was told to join the Russian army.
A 17-year-old Ukrainian who was taken from Ukraine to Russia during the war received a call-up to enlist in the Kremlin’s forces, the BBC reported.
Bohdan Yermokhin, a teenager originally from the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, was taken to Russia after the city was seized by Russian forces in April 2022, according to his lawyer, Kateryna Bobrovska.
At the time, Yermokhin had been living with a relative in Mariupol because he was orphaned in 2014, according to Bobrovska.
He was then “illegally deported” by Russia to Moscow, per Bobrovska, and sent to live with a foster family there.
As he was living in Russia, Yermokhin was issued a call-up order to report on December 13 for a military draft in Moscow, Bobrovska told Ukrainian media on November 7.
The BBC confirmed this with Yermokhin’s guardian in Russia, Irina Rudnitskaya, and reported that he was enrolled into a college in Russia and given Russian documents.
Still, Rudnitskaya told the BBC it was was unlikely Yermokhin would have been sent to fight his own countrymen because he would be a new recruit.
“He is a student,” she told the BBC, saying that new recruits “do not take part in the Special Military Operation.”
Men are eligible for Russia’s military draft when they reach the age of 18, and if conscripted, they are supposed to serve for 12 months.
Yermokhin turns 18 on November 19, Bobrovska told the BBC. She said the teenager had only days before he was due to enlist.
Much attention has been paid to Yermokhin’s status in Russia after he released a video asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for help with leaving Russia.
It seems to have worked. On November 10 — nine days before Yermokhin’s reported birthday — Bobrovska posted a letter from Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for Children’s Rights, saying the teen could return to Ukraine.
Dmytro Lubinets, the Ukrainian Parliament commissioner for Human Rights, also announced the news on the same day.
“Bohdan Yermokhin will soon be in Ukraine!” Lubinets wrote in a Telegram post.
The announcement comes after Russia said Yermokhin wanted to stay in Russia, a claim Bobrovska has repeatedly denied.
The teen was caught by Russian border guards while trying to flee to Belarus on his own in April, per the Associated Press.
Lvova-Belova, the Russian official, claimed that Yermokhin had been taken to the border “under false premises,” per the AP.
She also said in August that Yermokhin was offered a chance to return to Ukraine, but “clearly stated that he doesn’t plan to move to Ukraine before turning 18 and confirmed it in writing.”
But Bobrovska told Ukrainian media that Yermokhin said he was intimidated into signing the statement.
On November 10, Lvova-Belova posted a statement saying Yermokhin had changed his mind and wanted to return to Ukraine.
Lvova-Belova said he would be accompanied by a legal representative as he reunites with a family member.
She also claimed that Yermokhin would never have been drafted into the Russian army, as his service would have been deferred due to him being a student.
Ukraine has accused Russia of abducting more than 100,000 children from occupied territories, many of whom were orphaned by the war. Ukrainian officials say Moscow has been actively trying to assimilate these children into Russian society, allowing them to be adopted by Russian families.
Such an act is a war crime, per the United Nations.
The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Lvova-Belova and Russian President Vladimir Putin in March, accusing them of illegally transferring children from occupied Ukraine to Russia.
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