Ukrainian Girl, 9, Who Escaped War Is Murdered in Germany

She moved to Germany after Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022, and her father is still back home serving in Ukraine’s military. Updated Jun. 12, 2024 11:42AM EDT / Published Jun. 12, 2024 9:22AM EDT Robert Michael / Getty / Handout A 9-year-old Ukrainian refugee who vanished on her way to school in Germany earlier this month has been found slain, local police

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She moved to Germany after Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022, and her father is still back home serving in Ukraine’s military.

Allison Quinn

A photo including policemen and missing nine-year-old Valeriia

Robert Michael / Getty / Handout

A 9-year-old Ukrainian refugee who vanished on her way to school in Germany earlier this month has been found slain, local police said Wednesday.

“We are certain that the deceased is the missing 9-year-old Valeriia… Valeriia was the victim of a crime. We are investigating murder,” Saxony Police President Carsten Kaempf told reporters at a Wednesday press conference.

Tragically, the grim announcement came just hours after Valeriia’s father, Roman, released a video appeal from the frontline in Ukraine, where he has been fighting Russian forces after his daughter and her mother fled to safety following the start of the full-scale invasion.

“While I am protecting the peaceful sleep of Ukrainian children on the front lines, my own daughter has disappeared without a trace,” he said in the video. “I appeal to those involved in her disappearance: find the courage to return our beloved child to us. I very much hope that I can soon hug my daughter.”

His plea came around the same time police say they found the 9-year-old’s body Tuesday. She was found in a wooded area not far from her home in the town of Döbeln, Saxony, hidden beneath undergrowth. Frantic search efforts involving more than 400 police officers had been launched for the girl after she never showed up for school on June 3, with the last reported sighting of her that morning on her way to class.

Police have said Valeriia’s body showed signs of violence, but Senior Public Prosecutor Ingrid Burghart said there was no evidence that she had been sexually assaulted.

A witness had told police two days after the girl vanished that she’d “heard screams” coming from the forest where Valeriia was later found, so investigators are said to be examining that area as the crime scene.

Valeriia, whose surname has not been disclosed by police, had moved to Germany with her mother in early 2022. Her father has said he is working on securing the proper paperwork to head to Germany now after being granted temporary leave from the military.

Investigators have not yet identified any suspects or named a potential motive.

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