Ukraine alleges kidnapping of 150 children by Russia; SA president brings peace mission

Embattled Ukraine, whose counteroffensive is facing fierce retaliation by Russia, has accused the enemy of abducting 150 of its children from the occupied territory Luhansk and taking them across the border. With this, almost 20,000 children were taken by Russia from those parts of Ukraine that it controls, according to the National Resistance Centre.

A Ukrainian soldier gets combat training in Europe. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@Sprinter99880
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (right) arrives by train in Kyiv. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@nexta_tv

Meanwhile, Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, arrived by train in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, on a peace mission today. He and other African heads of state, who are in the delegation, are also expected to visit Moscow (or St Petersburg) as part of a mission to make peace between the warring nations.

However, there was major political drama before Ramaphosa’s arrival in Kyiv. His aircraft was stuck at the Warsaw Chopin airport, Poland, after landing yesterday because his security detail was not cleared by the Polish authorities. Furious tweets by South African journalists accompanying Ramaphosa alleged gross mistreatment — they were forced to sit inside the aircraft for some nine hours — and demands such as handing their passports over to the Polish authorities.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa disembarks at Warsaw Chopin airport, a day before arriving in Kyiv by train. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@PresidencyZA

Counter-tweets alleged that Ramaphosa was pro-Russia and, therefore, not welcome in Ukraine as a peacemaker. The president’s plane had trouble even before landing, as it was forced to circle over the Mediterranean six times, because Italy refused to give it air space clearance.

Even as Ramaphosa reached Kyiv this morning, there were reports of explosions in Ukraine’s capital city. Suspilne, the state broadcaster, reported that “several Kalibr-type missiles” had been fired from the direction of the Black Sea.

Ramaphosa is meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy today in Kyiv and then travels to either Moscow or St Petersburg tomorrow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Is Ukraine closer to NATO membership?

The invasion by Russia that started in February 2022 had much to do with the likely membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for Ukraine. Ever since the start of the invasion, Ukraine has been urging that the membership process be accelerated.

Today, German defence minister Boris Pistorius said in Brussels, “There are increasing signs that everyone will be able to agree on this.” However, NATO is not going to let Ukraine join until the war ends.

Also read: Ukraine counteroffensive: Putin says Russia has lost 54 tanks but Ukraine has lost 160

Ukraine fires an anti-aircraft missile from the Patriot air defence system. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@HerryNapit

The social media war between Ukraine and Russia continues alongside the ground and air battles, both sides claiming to trounce the other. By Ukraine’s own admission the day before, its counteroffensive was slowing down in the face of Russia’s response.

Hanna Maliar, Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister, said in a social media post: “Our troops are moving in the conditions of extremely fierce battles, aviation and artillery superiority of the enemy.”