Ukraine’s Prime Minister Asks Pope Francis to Help Bring Back Children Taken to Russia

Ukraine Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal meets Pope Francis in a private, 30-minute encounter at the Vatican on the morning of April 27, 2023. | Credit: Vatican Media

Ukraine’s prime minister told journalists Thursday that he has asked Pope Francis for help getting back children forcibly deported to Russia.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal met Pope Francis in a private, 30-minute encounter at the Vatican on the morning of April 27.

According to the Associated Press, Shmyhal later briefed reporters on the papal meeting, sharing that he had asked the pope for his help retrieving the abducted children. He said he also invited Francis to visit Ukraine.

“I asked His Holiness to help us return home Ukrainians, Ukrainian children who are detained, arrested, and criminally deported to Russia,” Shmyhal said, according to AP.

Reuters reported that the Ukrainian government estimates that almost 19,500 children have been taken to Russia or Russian-occupied Crimea since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February last year.


Russia denies abducting children, claiming they were taken away for their own safety.

Earlier in April, more than 30 Ukrainian children were reunited with their families following a mission that involved traveling from Ukraine to Crimea via Poland, Belarus, and Moscow for some Ukrainian parents.

The Vatican said April 27 that Shmyhal also met with Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and foreign minister Archbishop Richard Gallagher.

The conversation in the Secretariat of State touched on the war in Ukraine, especially humanitarian issues and efforts to restore peace, the Vatican’s brief communication said.

The life and activity of the Church in the midst of the war in Ukraine was also discussed.

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Shmyhal and Pope Francis last met at the Vatican in March 2021 amid clashes between Ukraine and Russia in the Donbas region. Shmyhal has been Ukraine’s prime minister since March 2020.

Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency's senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.