A new report has verified hundreds of social media videos of unaccompanied Ukrainian children being taken to Russia.
Hundreds of unaccompanied Ukrainian children have been forcibly taken to Russia since the start of the war, with some disappearing from summer camps and others from medical treatments according to a new study.
A recent report by the EBU Investigative Journalism Network has verified dozens of videos of these children on Russian social media. They have also interviewed families still looking for their children and international NGOs.
“[Russian forces] kidnap [the children]. They change their citizenship, give them up for adoption under guardianship, commit sexual violence and other crimes,” said Daria Herasymchuk, the commissioner for children’s rights and rehabilitation for Ukraine.
However, President Putin's Commissioner for Children's Rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, defends it as an act of love for orphaned children who have no one to care for them.
In one video published on YouTube, a group of Ukrainian children is met by ‘adoptive parents’ in Moscow. Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin created a way to fast-track the process of giving citizenship to children from Ukraine.
In the video, a woman says, “we will be [the children’s] roots, this puts even more responsibility on us to really become their true parents.”
Kyiv says around 14,000 children were taken from Ukraine to Russia
According to Kyiv, around 14,000 children have been taken from Ukraine to Russia since the start of the war.
Moscow argues that it is evacuating them from war zones, and Ukraine calls the transfers genocide.
“Not only is forcible transfer a war crime, but also adopting children during a time of war is also completely against international law,” Bill van Esveld, Associate Child Rights Director of Human Right Watch, said.
Reed Broody, a Human Rights Lawyer, and an international war crimes prosecutor described the transfers as “a crime against humanity”.
"The forcible transfer of children, as we see it is clearly a war crime,” he said. “But it`s also a crime against humanity because it is being carried out on a widespread and systematic level."
Stories of children almost taken away from their families
The report also said that there were several claims of children being separated from their parents at filtration camps controlled by Russian forces in occupied areas.
Oleksander was almost one of those children. He arrived at the camp with his mother, and she was then interrogated and unable to pass the screening process.
"We were not even allowed to say goodbye,” Oleksandr said. His grandmother managed to get him back before he was transferred to Russia.
They don’t know what happened to his mother.
Natalia sent her daughter Karina to a summer camp organized by the authorities designated by Moscow in Kozacha Lopan, one of the first cities to be occupied.
The camp was meant to get young people away from the fighting. She eventually saw her child again, but other parents were not as lucky.
"Half of those who left have already requested Russian passports and stayed there. From what I know, they are told that Ukraine does not allow them to enter the country anymore. But I don’t believe it.”