A 22-year-old policewoman from Mariupol spent two years in Russian captivity

Maryana Chechelyuk was released from detention after a prisoner swap on May 31.

Before Russia's large-scale invasion of Ukraine, Maryana Chechelyuk lived in Mariupol and worked as an investigator. When the Russian army began shelling the city and bombing it from the air, the family couldn't escape in time. On May 1, 2022, during the first civilian evacuation from the Azovstal steel plant, Maryana and her sister Alina managed to leave. According to their father, Vitaliy Checheliuk, representatives from the UN and the Red Cross promised to take the girls to Ukrainian-controlled Zaporizhzhia. Instead, they were taken to Nameless, a village occupied by Russian forces, to be "filtered" by the Russian military.

Alina, who was just 15, was left behind in Bezymenny, while Maryana was sent to a pre-trial detention center in Donetsk. Fortunately, their parents managed to rescue Alina and escape Mariupol. Maryana, however, was captured.

In captivity, Maryana endured severe torture, hunger, and beatings. She was first held in Olenivka in the Donetsk region, then transferred to Taganrog in Russia. Over two years, she faced unimaginable horrors. "In her letters, Maryana described enduring extensive torture: starvation, beatings, and constant abuse. It's incredibly tough for her, both mentally and physically," her mother, Nataliya, shared.

The harsh conditions took a toll on Maryana's health. By August 2023, she was transported from Taganrog prison to occupied Mariupol, barely alive. Her mother discovered that Maryana had developed serious respiratory issues, hair loss, and reproductive health problems due to the abuse. "She developed chronic bronchitis from untreated respiratory diseases. She lost a lot of weight, her immunity weakened, her hair fell out, and her menstrual cycles stopped," Nataliya explained.

Despite the dire conditions, Maryana twice refused offers from Russian special services to betray Ukraine. Her mother recounted that the Russians tried to coerce her with promises of a large salary and threats, but Maryana stood firm. "They tried to lure her to the Russian side with promises and intimidation, but she refused," Nataliya said.

In Russian captivity, Maryana was kept in complete isolation, with no contact with her family despite her mother's constant efforts to send letters. Maryana's story highlights the brutal reality faced by many Ukrainians under Russian occupation, enduring unimaginable hardships while maintaining their loyalty and hope.

Russia kidnapped 46 children from a foster home in then-occupied Kherson in 2022

In April 2022, the Russian government abducted 46 children from Kherson Children's Home, a state-run foster home for institutionalized children with special needs, according to an investigation by the New York Times published on June 2.

The Ukrainian government's Children of War database has confirmed that at least 19,500 Ukrainian children have been abducted by Russia since the start of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Tragically, fewer than 400 of these children have been returned home.

When the invasion began in February 2022, the staff at the Kherson Children's Home hid the children—who were infants and toddlers, some with severe disabilities such as cerebral palsy—in a church basement to protect them. However, on April 25, 2022, Russian officials discovered the children and transported them 180 miles (290 kilometers) away to Crimea. The New York Times reported that the abduction was filmed for propaganda purposes.

The investigation revealed that a man known as "Navigator," identified as Igor Kastyukevich, a member of the Russian parliament for Vladimir Putin's United Russia party, repeatedly visited the foster home and ordered the children's relocation from the church.

"What happened to them next, legal experts say, may amount to a war crime," the investigation stated.

All 46 children were taken to the city of Simferopol in Russian-occupied Crimea and divided between two facilities. One of these facilities, Yolochka, had previously been investigated for negligence. The situation highlights the severe and ongoing humanitarian crisis faced by Ukrainian children amidst the conflict.

Netherlands to not restrict Ukraine's use of F-16s to strike targets in Russia

Dutch Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren has confirmed that the Netherlands will permit Ukraine to use the F-16 fighter jets it plans to supply, including for strikes on targets within Russia.

"We are applying the same principle that we have applied to every other delivery of capabilities, which is once we hand it over to Ukraine, it’s theirs to use. We only ask them to comply with international law and the right to self-defense as stated in the U.N. Charter, which means they use it to target the military goals they need to target in their self-defense," Ollongren stated.

Ollongren, along with other officials, has been advocating for the removal of restrictions on Ukraine's use of Western-supplied weapons, restrictions that had been imposed by some of Ukraine's allies. She emphasized the importance of maintaining this support policy even as the Netherlands transitions to a new government.

"I think it’s vital that we continue to play that role. I have seen in the program for [the] new government that the support for Ukraine will continue, that the new government also values the European Union, NATO, etc.," she added.

This stance underscores the Netherlands' commitment to supporting Ukraine's right to self-defense and reflects a broader consensus among Western allies regarding the provision of military aid to Ukraine.

Earlier, Denmark stated that it wouldn`t restrict the use of their F-16.

Germany admits Ukrainian forces may use Patriot systems to down aircraft over Russia

German Major General Christian Freuding, head of the Bundeswehr’s Situation Centre for Ukraine, has indicated that Ukraine could potentially use Patriot missile systems to target aircraft over Russian territory.

"It is entirely conceivable that the Patriot systems will now also be deployed in Kharkiv Oblast and used over Russian territory. They are perfectly suited for combating Russian aircraft that drop horrific glide bombs," Freuding said, according to European Pravda, citing German TV news service Tagesschau.

He emphasized that the tactical deployment of these systems is under the sole discretion of the Ukrainian military, highlighting their autonomy in making operational decisions.