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Ukrainian Activist Mariia Sulialina Honored for Documenting Russia’s War Crimes Against Children

Ukrainian Activist Mariia Sulialina Honored for Documenting Russia’s War Crimes Against Children
Mariia Sulialina (Source: Facebook/Masha Sulialina)

Mariia Sulialina, head of Ukrainian human rights organization “Almenda” has won the Civil Rights Defender of The Year 2024 award in Sweden.

Mariia Sulialina is a 27-year-old activist, who started her civil rights activist journey in 2013 when she was only 15 years old, working for Almenda, a Crimean organization that records and gathers evidence of human rights abuses by collecting photographs and video clips and conducting interviews.

Almenda was founded in Yalta in 2011 by a group of activists, that included Maria’s mother, Valentina Potapova, who is still part of Almenda. Mariia Sulialina now leads the organization.

In 2014, Russia invaded the Crimean Peninsula, forcing Mariia to leave her hometown of Yalta city. After moving to Kyiv, she continued working in the organization, documenting human rights abuses committed in the occupied areas.

Children, who get deported to Russia, testify of being brainwashed and re-educated to support Russia, and many of the children get adopted into Russian families. Forced deportation and indoctrination are war crimes.

Such crimes are difficult to prove, that’s why Almenda works on gathering materials that could be submitted as evidence for future trials.

Mariia Sulialina dreams of bringing back home all the children who became Russia’s hostages. Maria’s personal dream is to go back to a free Crimea.

“When I was a kid in Yalta, Crimea, there was a place where old ladies and gentlemen were dancing every Saturday. I was talking to my friend and we said, one day, we will be 70 years old and we will be dancing there. I still believe that will come true,” said Maria.

Hanna Gerdes, Chair of the Board at Civil Rights Defenders, said that Mariia Sulialina and Almenda are doing an extraordinarily brave and systematic job of both collecting evidence and testimonies of the abuses and providing support to the victims.

“Children in the occupied territories are often invisible. They cannot speak on their own behalf as it is dangerous and could lead to criminal charges, and they are not very protected. The younger they are, the more influence propaganda has on them. Children are our future, and it is our obligation to protect them from militarisation and indoctrination and to ensure that the reintegration processes take their needs into account,” said Mariia Sulialina after getting the award.

The Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award is an award, given by the Civil Rights Defenders organization, for outstanding work in the defense of civil and political rights.

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