Russia abducted and deported over 11 thousand Ukrainian children, a war crime

Since the beginning of the full-scale war, Russians have deported more than 11.2 thousand children from Ukraine. International humanitarian law classifies such actions of the aggressor as a war crime.

Russia abducted and deported 11225 children from Ukraine

The Ukrainian government published data on killed, wounded, and abducted children on the website This data was confirmed by the Office of the Prosecutor General. The numbers are as of November 18.

  • 433 children killed
  • 837 children wounded
  • 294 children missing.
  • 7606 disappeared but was found.
  • 11225 children deported to Russia.
  • 103 children were returned from Russia.

War crime under International humanitarian law

This information was shared by Daria Gerasymchuk, Advisor to the President of Ukraine on Children’s Rights and Child Rehabilitation, at a videoconference meeting of the Coordination Council of Ukraine on Child Protection and Security with the participation of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, ambassadors of G20 countries and human rights activists.

Meanwhile, the Head of the Ukrainian Presidential Office Andriy Yermak emphasized that the meeting should contribute to a quick cessation of mass crimes committed by the Russian Federation against hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian children.

The Head of the Presidential Office reminded that the international humanitarian law classifies mass forced deportation of children during the conflict as a war crime, and called on the participants to actively tell the world about young Ukrainians and Russia’s crimes against them, to take measures to prevent new crimes.

EU condemned children abduction by Russia

On October 17, Vice-President of the European Commission, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell stated that the abduction of Ukrainian children by the Russian military is a war crime. 

“We continue discovering mass atrocities and reports about systematic kidnapping of children from Ukraine by Russian forces. If confirmed, this would amount to another war crime. The fight against impunity must be strengthened. We have already discussed how to do it”, Borrell’s statement reads.

The Russian “denazification” means genocide of Ukrainians

Russian invaders are destroying cities in Ukraine and killing civilians. Some of them are forcibly deported to the territory of Russia. The “denazification” declared by Putin has signs of the genocide of the Ukrainian nation, one of the key factors of which is the abduction of children and their forced deportation to Russia.

In Russia, abducted children are placed in boarding schools, guardianship is established over them, and in the future, they plan to implement the adoption procedure. Numerous European media, which managed to communicate with relatives or parents of children, published articles about the forced deportation of children, in particular, several stories are reported in the article by the German DW.

Adoption of deported Ukrainian children promoted in Russia

The Institute for the Study of War reported that the so-called documentary about the “evacuation” and forced adoption of Ukrainian children into Russian families is being widely distributed in the country.

Officials acting as Russian proxies and sources openly promote the forced adoption of Ukrainian children into Russian homes. On November 9, well-known Russian military bloggers released a multi-part video series that featured several Donbass-born Ukrainian youngsters who had been adopted by Russian families. 

According to the documentary series, around 150,000 kids were taken out of Donbas by Russian authorities in 2022 alone. The specific methodology used by Russian sources to come at this figure is unknown, and Ukrainian authorities have previously put the total between 6,000 and 8,000. Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of the Chechen Republic, also disclosed that he is collaborating with Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian Federation’s commissioner for children’s rights, to bring “difficult teenagers” from various Russian regions and the occupied Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts to Chechnya for “preventative work” and “military-patriotic education.” 

Lvova-Belova, who herself adopted a kid from Mariupol, has consistently argued in favor of deporting and adopting Ukrainian youngsters. As ISW has previously reported, the foundation of a massive Russian depopulation campaign that may violate the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and constitute a larger ethnic cleansing effort is likely forced adoption programs and the deportation of children under the guise of vacation and rehabilitation plans.

Russia promotes the “simplified procedure” of getting “Russian citizenship” for Ukrainian children

Russian authorities have begun to openly advertise in the media the forced adoption of Ukrainian children. Analysts pointed to the fact that the Russian children’s ombudsman strongly supports the forced deportation of Ukrainian children and their adoption in Russia.

Thus, according to the message of the Commissioner for Children’s Rights under the President of Russia Maria Lvova-Belova in the social network “Vkontakte” on July 15, parents will appear for 108 orphans from Donbas, who acquired Russian citizenship under a “simplified procedure”.

The introduction of this procedure was initiated by the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin himself, who signed a decree on May 30 on the simplified admission to Russian citizenship of Ukrainian orphans or those left without parental care, including those in the temporarily occupied territories. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry believes that by this decree Putin legalized in Russia the abduction of children from Ukraine. 

“We consider the decree of the President of the Russian Federation on simplifying the admission of Ukrainian orphans or those left without parental care to Russian citizenship as an attempt by the Kremlin to legalize the illegal transfer of Ukrainian children from the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine to the territory of the Russian Federation,” the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The abduction of Ukrainian children

Russian invaders steal Ukrainian children, separate them from their families, take them to boarding schools, and camps, and keep them in uncertainty. They are not allowed to contact their relatives, deprived of documents in an attempt to erase their nationality.

As a rule, Russians steal orphans or those deprived of parental care. But there are examples when in the captured cities the occupants took the child from the parents at the stage of filtration.

Russian propaganda twists the truth about Ukrainian children

Russian propaganda constantly speculates on the topic of children in its stories. Moscow shows itself to the domestic audience as a savior of children from war. It was Russia that brought the war to Ukraine. 

In Russia, of course, they do not talk about the deportation of children. Russians call this process “evacuation”, although, in reality, it is just about the forced abduction of kids. In Mariupol, destroyed by the Russian bombardments, the invaders went from block to block and took children without asking them whether they wanted to or not, thus violating their rights.

At the same time, the “evacuation” itself, which is “covered” by Russia, is prohibited by international treaties. According to the Geneva Convention, civilians cannot be moved to the territory of the invading country. This applies to many Ukrainians who have been forcibly transported to remote regions of Russia, as well as to children, the fate of most of whom is unknown.

The export of orphans is of particular concern, because they are the most vulnerable, and it is very easy for Russia to use them for its purposes. The aggressor country grants them its citizenship and places them in foster families that will bring them up as Russians, not Ukrainians. If these children are not returned to their homeland, Ukraine risks losing them forever.

Russia violates the norms of the Geneva Convention – Commissioner for Human Rights

Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Dmytro Lubinets believes that Russia violates the norms of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons. Among other things, the document provides for the prohibition of forced relocation from the occupation to the territory of the aggressor country. 

Dmytro Lubinets stressed that Russian propaganda presents war crimes as a noble act, boasting of the “indifference” of Russians. 

“Russia first makes orphans of children with its own hands, killing their parents and family members with shells, separates their families in deportation, deprives them of the right to study and grow up in their homeland, destroying schools and civilian infrastructure of cities and towns, and then generously “arranges” them to strangers in a foreign land!” Lubinets wrote.

103 children, who were illegally deported to Russia, returned to Ukraine

There is a light of hope in this terrible story. 103 children, who were forcibly taken from Ukraine by Russians, have been returned to their homeland. This was stated by the Deputy Head of the Juvenile Prevention Department of the National Police Yaroslav Shanko, the Ukrinform reported.

“According to the National Information Bureau, 11,129 children were illegally deported to the territory of the Russian Federation. Of those, 103 children have been returned,” – he said.

He also added that Ukraine is currently developing mechanisms for the return of illegally deported children to Russia. As of the morning of November 16, according to the official information of juvenile prosecutors, as a result of the full-scale war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, 431 children were killed and 835 were injured.

Deportation of Ukrainian children from Kherson

Meanwhile, the deportation of Ukrainian children by Russian troops continues. And it happens purposefully and systematically. Thus, before the liberation of Kherson by the Ukrainian army, the Russian invaders took out dozens of orphans from the city.

On October 23, Russian media published a statement by Russian Education Minister Sergei Kravtsov. He noted that teachers of the region should go to the territory of the occupied Crimea, the Krasnodar region of Russia, or the left bank of the Dnipro.

On the same day, the head of the Kherson regional military administration Yaroslav Yanushevych reported that the Russian invading forces took 46 children from Kherson regional orphanage to Simferopol by ambulance. According to Yanushevych, these are children under the age of 5. The message of the head of the region also says that Kherson regional administration sent a corresponding appeal to the regional prosecutor’s office.

There are also reports about Russians taking children from the occupied Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhya region. According to Crimean officials, they expect to receive 5 thousand Ukrainian children. Watch the Radio Liberty report on the Ukrainian children abduction:

Ukraine fights to bring children back from Russia

The Ukrainian government does not leave attempts to shout to both international political leaders and Russia itself on various platforms – from the UN to the High Commissioner for Refugees.

To date, the world community in its majority has not yet openly stated that Russia’s actions have many signs of the genocide of the Ukrainian nation. Children are the most important component of any nation as they guarantee its future. Ukraine – both the government and the people, at all international levels says that it is fighting not only for itself but also for Europe.

There are hopes that Europe itself, having built after the Second World War various mechanisms of protection against countries that decided that they could wipe out entire nations, will use them to the fullest and protect Ukrainian children.

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