Важливо 11:02 01 Jun 2023

Russia's crimes against Ukrainian children: the world must know the truth

On the occasion of International Children's Day, Rubryka reminds the readers of what Russia is depriving Ukrainian children of. For almost a year and a half, the aggressor country has been doing everything to deprive Ukraine of its future and Ukrainian children of their childhood.

What is the problem?

Children are the most precious thing in every family, country, and nation. Children are our continuation, our hope, and our future. The aggressor country, which has been hunting Ukrainian children every day since the beginning of the war, is aware of all this. In its speeches, Russia's leaders always cover themselves with pompous words about protecting the children of Ukraine from the war and the Kyiv regime, as they call it. Of course, all this is a cynical lie.

In May 2023, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) published a report on Russia's crimes against Ukrainian children.

It states that the actions of the Russian Federation against Ukrainian children can be recognized as crimes against humanity, in some cases —  war crimes, and serious violations of the IV Geneva Convention. Dedicated to Children's Day, Rubryka explains how Russia deprives Ukrainian children of their homes, parents, safety, health, and life. The world must know the truth about the atrocities Russia has committed in Ukraine and how it has affected Ukrainian children.

Russia kills and maims Ukrainian children

злочини росії проти українських дітей

Ilustrative picture

As of June 1, more than 1,476 children have been injured in Ukraine as a result of the full-scale armed aggression of the Russian Federation.

The largest number of killed and wounded children is in the Donetsk, Kharkiv, Kyiv, and Kherson regions. Only recently, on May 13, 2023, Russian invaders shelled Kostyantynivka in the Donetsk region, and a 15-year-old girl died from this terrorist attack, and two children aged 15 and 16 were injured. In the village of Zelenivka, in the Kherson region, on May 17, a child died due to shelling by the Russians. Her father carried her to the hospital, but it was too late, and the child died.

Even unborn children suffer from Russian attacks. On May 29, the Russian occupiers, likely with an Iskander missile, shelled Kivsharivka in the Kharkiv region. Six people were injured, including two children and a pregnant woman.

According to official information published by the Children of War platform, since the beginning of the war, 484 children have died, and more than 992 have been injured. Unfortunately, these terrible numbers change every day and are not final. Ukraine currently does not know how many children were injured in the places of hostilities, in the temporarily occupied and liberated territories.

Russia tortures and rapes Ukrainian children

злочини росії проти українських дітей

The occupiers arranged torture chambers in Kherson. The photo was distributed by the Security Service of Ukraine

In December 2022, the fact of torture of children was recorded in de-occupied Kherson. Dmytro Lubinets, the Ukrainian parliament's Commissioner for Human Rights, said ten torture chambers were discovered in the city, one of which had a separate cell for children. The occupiers themselves called it a children's cell. The people of Kherson say that some of the boys who were tortured there looked about 14 years old.

The ombudsman's office found that the military gave the children water every other day and practically did not feed them. According to Lubinets, children were subjected to psychological pressure. In particular, children were told that their parents had allegedly abandoned them. The ombudsman gave an example: a 14-year-old boy was detained by the occupiers just because he took a picture of destroyed Russian equipment. He was put in a cell and kept under torture.

Just recently, there was a shocking report that in the temporarily occupied Berdyansk of the Zaporizhzhia region, Russian security forces are accusing two teenagers of sabotaging the railway. According to Russian laws, 16-year-old Tigran Ohannisyan and Nikita Khanganov face up to 20 years in prison.

The Media Initiative for Human Rights, which is engaged in documenting war crimes, learned about this case. The organization stated that in the fall of 2022, Tigran was kidnapped from the house where he lived with his grandmother. He was illegally detained for several days and brutally interrogated with beatings and electric torture. The attempt of the teenager's parents to return for him from Germany and take their son out of the occupied territory failed — the whole family was arrested in the Russian city of Taganrog.

"We can assume that shortly the children will be threatened with arrest and a show trial, which the Russian authorities seconded to Berdyansk are planning to arrange," the Media Initiative representative comments.

In addition, Russians also use sexual violence against Ukrainian children. Ukrainian law enforcement officers are currently investigating the case of sexual violence against a 4-year-old girl committed by Russians during the occupation in the Brovary district of the Kyiv region. In addition, the occupiers raped two teenage girls there.

In general, during the year of Russia's war against Ukraine, only 171 cases of sexual violence against Ukrainians were officially registered, including against 13 minors.

Russia kidnaps and deports children

злочини росії проти українських дітей

24 children who were taken away by the Russian military returned home in March 2023. Photo: Kherson Regional Military Administration

According to the National Information Bureau, the occupiers deported 19,505 minor Ukrainians. These official data are also constantly updated on the Children of War platform. The figure above is a list of appeals to the National Information Bureau from parents, other relatives, witnesses, and local authorities who filed a statement regarding the deportation or forced displacement of a child. The Ukrainian authorities admit that this is only a small part of the truth, and there may be ten times more kidnapped children. In one of the media's comments, Lubinets cites the following figures: there may be about 150,000 illegally deported Ukrainian children on the territory of Russia.

At the same time, Ukrainian children from the occupied territories are taken to children's camps in Russia and other occupied Ukrainian territories without telling their parents when they will be returned from rehabilitation, as Russians call it. For example, it is now known about 43 institutions where the Russians keep children taken from the occupied Ukrainian territories, six of them are in Crimea. Ukrainian children were taken to these institutions under the guise of recreation.

Returning a child to Ukraine from such a camp is often extremely difficult. In April 2023, thanks to the Save Ukraine charity organization, 31 children were brought home, 24 of them from the Kherson region. The Russians kept children in Crimea in one of the camps for several months. The parents had to go through Poland and Belarus to get to the occupied Crimea. Volunteers of the Save Ukraine Foundation said that the Russian side interrogated the children's parents for 13 hours and later forced them to participate in a propaganda reportage.

On May 30, Ukrainian Olha Guruli, an employee of the Save Ukraine fund, who helped find and return kidnapped Ukrainian children, was detained in Moscow. Later, Russian propagandists reported that the woman had been deported from the Russian Federation.

Russia makes children orphans

злочини росії проти українських дітей

Illustrative photo

During the Russian Federation's full-scale aggression against Ukraine, 5,000 Ukrainian children found themselves without their parents. Daria Herasymchuk, authorized adviser to the President of Ukraine on children's rights and child rehabilitation, reported this on the air of Ukrainian Radio. Someone's parents are at war, some adults are in temporarily occupied territory, and some are considered missing. The danger of losing parents is always present. 

"If we talk about the temporarily occupied territories, the living conditions there are unsuitable," said the official.

Ukraine does not abandon its children. More than 3,500 children were placed with their biological families. Many children are involved in alternative forms of upbringing: they end up in foster families, family-type children's homes, and, very rarely — in orphanages.

Herasymchuk notes that the Telegram chatbot "The Child is not Alone" currently operates in Ukraine. There are many families in Ukraine ready to accept an orphaned child.

Russians illegally adopt Ukrainian children

The illegal adoption of Ukrainian children is another manifestation of genocide against the Ukrainian people. Before the start of the full-scale invasion, this was not possible at the legislative level, but the Russian Federation has changed its laws. Now it considers the occupied territories of Ukraine as Russian. Moreover, the President of the Russian Federation, Putin, announced that the children of the regions, which Russia has already managed to illegally include in its constitution, are allegedly Russian citizens.

Guided by this, Russia issues Russian passports to Ukrainian children and gives them up for adoption to Russian families. As of the end of 2022, the Russians illegally adopted about 400 Ukrainian children from the occupied territories. Such data was presented by Kateryna Rashevska, the lawyer of the Regional Center for Human Rights, during the conference Genocide as a weapon in the fight against the Ukrainian nation in the 20th-21st centuries: interdisciplinary approaches.

These crimes are led by the Russian President's Commissioner for Children's Rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, who not only facilitates the transfer of Ukrainian orphans to Russian families but has also illegally adopted a teenager from Mariupol herself.

Russia destroys children's homes and schools

Due to Russia's armed aggression, more than 170,000 residential buildings were destroyed in Ukraine. Ukraine's Ministry of Development of Communities, Territories, and Infrastructure provides such data as of January 2023. This statistic grows daily because the Russian army does not stop shooting Ukrainian cities and villages with all the available weapons.

Зруйнований Бахмут у травні 2023 року

Brutally destroyed city of Bakhmut in Ukraine's east in May 2023. A still from the NYT video.

​​Some settlements were simply wiped off the face of the earth. Recently, The New York Times published drone footage of Bakhmut, destroyed by the Russian occupiers, where more than 70,000 people used to live before the war, including 12,000 children. "Bakhmut is destroyed. Many lives and homes in a once peaceful city known for its salt mines and sparkling wine are mostly reduced to ashes," NYT journalists stated.

The city of Maryinka, located in the Pokrovsky district of the Donetsk region, looks the same. There is not a single surviving building left in this settlement. In each of these destroyed houses, before the Russian invaders came to the Ukrainian land, Ukrainians lived, made plans for the future, and raised children. Those who were lucky enough to survive the shelling of the Russian Federation have nowhere to return.

The Russians have already damaged over 1,000 preschools, and more than 2,600 schools, 70 kindergartens, and 420 schools were completely destroyed.

злочини росії проти українських дітей

The school was destroyed in Lyubymivka, Kherson region. Photo by the 9th-grader Anna Urodlivchenko, Facebook

The teenagers in the photo above are the students who graduated from the 9th grade of the school in the village of Lyubymivka, Kherson region. They celebrated the holiday of the last day of the school year near their school. The children spent years in its classes and probably did not dream of such a graduation. Now the educational institution is almost destroyed as a result of the actions of the Russian occupiers.

What is the solution?

All these facts, as well as the conclusions of the OSCE Report, can be used within the framework of national and international mechanisms for bringing to justice the perpetrators of recorded crimes.

It will not be easy, but Ukraine and the international community must do everything to ensure that all Russian criminals who hurt Ukrainian children are brought to justice.

The first but crucial step towards this has already been taken. On March 17, 2023, the Pretrial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Putin and Lvova-Belova, in connection with the illegal deportation and kidnapping of Ukrainian children from the occupied territories to the Russian Federation.

More to come. Russians must be punished for every crime committed against Ukrainians.


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