Before the start of Russia’s war against Ukraine, Kira Obedinsky was a cheerful and beloved 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. His father Yevhen Obedinsky, a former captain of Ukraine’s national water polo team, was shot and killed as Russian forces forced their way through the southeastern city of Mariupol on March 17.
A few days later, Kira and her father’s girlfriend attempted to flee town on foot alongside neighbors. But after being injured in a landmine explosion, Kira was taken to a hospital in the Donetsk region, controlled by Moscow-backed separatists.
Now Kira’s grandfather, Oleksander, fears he will never see her again. He said that a dissident government official in Donetsk phoned and invited him to go there to claim her, which is impossible because of the war.
He says he spoke to the hospital and was told that Kira would eventually be sent to an orphanage in Russia. They took away his documents, he said, and was told that Kira would receive new ones in Russia.
The Russian government said it helped move at least 60,000 Ukrainians to safety across the Russian border. The Ukrainian government said around 40,000 people had been moved against their will, describing it as kidnapping and forced eviction.
Russian media, which has repeatedly downplayed the brutality of the conflict in Ukraine, showed a video of Kira talking happily about how she is sometimes allowed to call her grandfather.
This is ‘proof’ that she was not abducted, according to a Russian TV presenter, who called the claim ‘false Ukrainian’.
Meanwhile, Oleksander received an audio message from Kira telling him not to cry. But the young girl who lost her family, her freedom and her home in the Russian war cannot hold back her own tears.
“I haven’t seen you for so long,” she said. “I want to cry.”