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Ukraine Crisis

War in Ukraine wreaks havoc on surrogate families

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Surrogate children being looked after near Kyiv.

Bombardment, shelling and missiles have become a daily part of life in Ukraine, as the conflict recently entered its fourth month.

Russia says the mission is a “special military operation”. But over 4,000 civilians have lost their lives, including over 200 children.

The ongoing conflict has become a nightmare for surrogates in the war-torn country, and hopeful parents watching on.

Ukraine’s relaxed surrogacy laws allow over 2,000 babies to be born in the country each year.

Emma Micallif is an Australian who turned to Ukraine, where she matched with Svetlana to birth her second child.

But when Russian tanks rolled across the border, everything changed.

Svetlana was living in fear, as air raid sirens kept her awake for days on end. On the other side of the world, Emma was also anxious for her unborn child.

Emma diagnosed with cervical cancer 32 weeks into her pregnancy with her first child, Felix.

For six months Emma’s surrogacy operation ran smoothly, until Russian forces entered their neighbouring country on 24 February.

Emma, and two other couples arranged a bus to evacuate three surrogates and their 10 children to Moldova.

It was a moment of bittersweet relief, the surrogates were safe, but the nation’s strict surrogacy laws were far from ideal.

Others have been forced to watch the crisis from across the globe, with no way of knowing where their child is, or if they are safe.

Why are people turning to Ukraine for surrogacy?

Commercial surrogacy has been a legal practice for over 20 years in Ukraine.

Dr. Ronli Sifris is an expert in women’s reproductive health and law at Monash University, who says some local laws are restrictive, which is pushing parents to look elsewhere.

“It’s hard to even imagine being pregnant and giving birth during wartime for someone that’s carrying their own baby, let alone if you’re carrying somebody else’s baby”.

Dr. RONLI SIFRIS

Ukraine allows the future parents to be listed on the child’s birth certificate rather than the surrogate.

This means the child’s intended parents are listed as official guardians under Ukrainian law.

Surrogacy is not a cheap operation in Ukraine. Someone may expect to pay up to USD $40,000 for the service.

But this is a fraction of the USD $150,000 it might cost to use a surrogate in the U.S.

“You’re having to potentially flee to another part of the country and be separated from your own children and from your own partner, or even fleeing to another country.”

Dr Ronli Sifris

In many countries, like Australia for example, commercial surrogacy is still illegal.

If a family does find someone to carry their child, the intended parents are not recognised as the legal parents at birth.

When Svetlana and the other surrogates arrived in the Moldovan capital, Chișinău, they were forced into a small apartment with few beds.

Svetlana was pregnant and sleeping on the floor.

Her husband was left in Ukraine and her mother was evacuated to Germany—a sign of her own family falling apart as she was bringing hope for another.

Is it time to change surrogacy laws?

Surrogate in Ukraine who are holding babies for British families have recently become eligible for special visa, which last for three years.

Dr. Sifris says the conflict has highlighted the importance of cross-border pregnancy, and should be the catalyst for changing surrogacy laws.

“The anxiety around legalising and regulating compensated surrogacy in Australia does not make sense.”

“Australia’s legal system has the capability to do this, and in doing so, would minimise the risk of exploitation,” she says.

Nurses care for newborns at a clinic on the outskirts of Kyiv.

Nurses like Oksana Martynenko are raising their hands to help with the wartime labour effort, until surrogacy laws are changed abroad.

“We look after them, we cannot leave them behind. How could that be possible? They’re tiny creatures,” she says.

Martynenko and her colleagues have a steady flow of surrogate babies at a makeshift clinic on the outskirts of Kyiv.

The children will remain at the facility until their parents collect them.

Costa is a news producer at ticker NEWS. He has previously worked as a regional journalist at the Southern Highlands Express newspaper. He also has several years' experience in the fire and emergency services sector, where he has worked with researchers, policymakers and local communities. He has also worked at the Seven Network during their Olympic Games coverage and in the ABC Melbourne newsroom. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts (Professional), with expertise in journalism, politics and international relations. His other interests include colonial legacies in the Pacific, counter-terrorism, aviation and travel.

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Ukraine Crisis

Zelensky addresses the U.N. as protests break out in Russia

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Zelensky addresses the U.N. as protests over Putin’s mobilisation plan break out in Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

Zelensky says his nation just wants peace and believes Russia should be punished and ostracised for its actions.

“A crime has been committed against Ukraine and we demand just punishment. The crime was committed against our state borders. The crime was committed against the lives of our people,” Zelensky said. “Ukraine demands punishment for trying to steal our territory”.

In the powerful speech, the Ukrainian President also called for Russia to lose its U.N. veto power. Russia is currently one of the five permanent members of the Security Council.

He is also seeking more military aid, pleading for more weapons to help liberate his country’s land.

Protests engulf major Russia cities

In Russia, police have arrested hundreds of protestors who are rallying against Vladimir Putin’s military mobilisation.

Human rights group OVD Info estimates more than 1,000 people have been taken into custody so far. The largest number of arrests were made in St Petersburg and Moscow.

As the Kremlin announced its intention to call up thousands of extra troops to fight the warn in Ukraine, flights departing Russia sold out almost immediately.

The mobilisation will likely see at least 300,000 military reservists drafted to bolster Russia’s forces.

In Moscow, the prosecutor’s office is warning that calls on the internet to join protests, or participation in these protests, could result in up to 15 years in jail time.

Russia’s disinformation laws about the war have made public demonstrations rare.

In his first national televised address since the war began, Putin said he will use “all available means” to protect Russian territory.

In theory, this could include nuclear weapons.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says the alliance remains vigilant.

“We will make sure that there is no misunderstanding in Moscow about exactly how we will react. Of course it depends upon what kind of situation or what kind or weapons they may use. The most important thing is to prevent that from happening and that is why we have been so clear in our communications with Russia about the unprecedented consequences,” Stoltenberg said.

Meanwhile, Putin’s mobilisation follows weeks of heavy losses for Russia in Ukraine, with Kyiv recapturing a huge area just east of Kharkiv.

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Ukraine Crisis

U.S. to provide Ukraine with tanks in the future

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U.S. to provide Ukraine with tanks in the future, but there is a catch

The U.S. will provide tanks to Ukraine in the future, but issues with maintenance and training may delay the rollout.

Ukraine has received billions of dollars worth of weapons and military equipment, allowing the war-torn nation to defend itself against Putin’s regime.

Russian forces are continuing to “conduct airstrikes that are impacting civilian infrastructure”, most recently striking a “dam near Kryvyi Rih”, according to a top U.S. official.

“This disturbing pattern which includes strikes that hit power stations last week continues to show Russian forces’ disregard for civilian life,” the official added.

When it comes to further military aid, the offical confirmed tanks are “absolutely on the table”, but are not an option for the immediate battle.

Once training, maintenance and sustainment issues are addressed, the roll out is more likely.

This follows verified reports Ukraine has successfully shot down 55 Russian
fighter jets.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed there would be no let-up in fighting to regain
territory lost to Russia.

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Ukraine Crisis

Mass burial site discovered in Ukraine

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A mass grave with over 400 bodies has been found in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region

The price of war is beginning to reveal itself in Ukraine as a mass grave, with over 400 bodies has been discovered in the recently liberated Kharkiv region.

The burial site was found in the city of Izyum, an area captured by Russian forces at the beginning of the war, and a victim to ultimate brutality.

Over recent days, Ukrainian forces have recaptured the area. So far, they have discovered over 1000 bodies in the city, with this number rising every day.

The mass grave site shows the extent of Russia’s atrocities, although Russia denies responsibility.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is launching an investigation and says “Russia leaves death everywhere and it must be held accountable for that.”

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