Before Russia’s war on Ukraine began, Kira Obedinsky was a joyful, loved 12-year-old girl. Now orphaned, injured and alone in a Russian-controlled hospital in eastern Ukraine, she has become an unwitting pawn in Moscow’s information war.
Obedinsky’s mother died when she was a baby. Her father Yevhen Obedinsky, a former captain of Ukraine’s national water polo team, was shot and killed as Russian forces fought their way into the southeastern city of Mariupol on March 17.
Days later, Kira and her father’s girlfriend tried to flee the city on foot alongside neighbors. But after she was injured in the blast from a landmine, Kira was taken to a hospital in the Donetsk region, which is controlled by Moscow-backed separatists.
Now Kira’s grandfather, Oleksander, fears he will never see her again. He said an official from the breakaway government in Donetsk phoned and invited him to travel there to claim her, which is impossible because of the war.
He says he spoke to the hospital and was told Kira will eventually be sent to an orphanage in Russia. They took away her documents, he said, and was told Kira will be provided with new ones in Russia.
The Russian government has said it has helped move at least 60,000 Ukrainian people to safety across the Russian border. The Ukrainian government has said around 40,000 have been relocated against their will describing it as abduction and forced deportation.
Russian media, which has repeatedly downplayed the brutality of the conflict in Ukraine, has shown video of Kira talking happily about how she’s sometimes allowed to call her grandfather.
This is “proof” that she wasn’t abducted, according to one Russian TV presenter, who dubbed the claim another “Ukrainian fake.”
Meanwhile, Oleksander has received an audio message from Kira telling him not to cry. But the young girl who has lost her family, her freedom and her home in Russia’s war, cannot stop her own tears.
“I haven’t seen you for so long”, she says. “I want to cry.”