KIEV, July 23 (RIA Novosti) - Independence supporters in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) refused to let out a group of children, including this with special needs, on Tuesday, saying the children could be taken hostage on the Kiev-controlled territory.
"When the children were already prepared for the departure, and the buses were standing by the orphanages, armed Vostok Battalion representatives strongly refused to let the children out," the Donetsk Region administration said.
The administration planned to take 135 children under four years old out of the specialized orphanage in Makiivka, which cares for children with HIV/AIDS, orphanages in the Donetsk regional and city, one in Mariupol and one in Kramatorsk. The regional authorities said the decision was based on the worsening situation, frequent shelling and a real threat to the children's lives.
The DPR refugee committee told RIA Novosti they would only let children leave for Russia.
"We don't want for our children to become hostages. Children will only go to Russia," the committee said.
The influx of Ukrainian refugees to Russia, especially to the bordering Rostov Region, has hiked since June as the conflict in eastern Ukraine spiraled out of control. More than 38,000 Ukrainians are now seeking refugee status in Russia, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Tuesday. More than 10,000 of them are children.
The assault on the city of Donetsk continued on Tuesday with militia securing the local airport and the Ukrainian Army suffering numerous losses, according to DPR's officials. Fighting has continued in the region since mid-April, when Kiev launched a special operation to fight independence supporters. Hundreds of civilians were killed in the conflict.