Russian authorities have been accused of running a mass “child-snatching” operation in Ukraine that had left children in fear of being swept up and disappearing into a vast network of horrifying “filtration” camps.
According to data from Kyiv, about 19,000 Ukrainian children were forcibly taken to Russia following the invasion in February 2022. According to numerous accounts, a considerable number of these youngsters have been sent to institutions and foster families.
The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s Presidential Children’s Rights Commissioner, in March.
They are accused of illegal expulsion and population transfer, including of minors, from Ukraine’s seized territory to Russia.
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Previously, Lvova-Belova claimed to be involved in a “humanitarian evacuation of abandoned Ukrainian children” and pushed Putin to make the adoption process for Ukrainian children easier.
Some Ukrainian youngsters who have returned claim being subjected to “reeducation” programmes, which frequently include military training.
The Russian media refers to these efforts as “integration programmes,” although testimony indicates that they are more coercive in nature.
Ukrainian youngsters are reportedly made to learn and stand for the Russian national anthem.
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While the usage of the Ukrainian language is understood to be forbidden.
Human rights NGOs are also concerned that children are allowed to freely communicate with their families.
A Ukraine boy has recounted his own tale of the Russian deportation programme for the MailOnline, 11-year-old Sashko Radchuk was removed from Mariupol after the city fell.
He was eventually taken to a filtration camp where Russian authorities look to root out people with pro-Ukranian sympathies.
Separated from his mother, Sashko ended up in a hospital having suffered a shrapnel wound to the eye.
Sashko recalled: “They didn’t even let me say goodbye, I was terrified. Nothing felt real.”
His grandmother Liudmyla eventually located him through a social media post and managed to make contact with the hospital.
When the pair finally managed to talk on the phone, Sashko pleaded with his grandmother, urging Liudmyla to come and pick him up fearing otherwise he would be placed in an orphanage.
Sashko is nearly 13 years old now and has been successfully returned to Ukrainian territory, yet sadly, his mother remains unaccounted for.
Liudmyla said: “He is with me now, studying here and waiting for his mum.”
The Ministry of Reintegration in Ukraine, along with the National Information Bureau, has reported that over the course of 16 months since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, more than 19,000 children have been forcibly moved to Russia.
Catherine Russell, the Executive Director of Unicef said: “The war has caused one of the fastest large-scale displacements of children since World War Two.”
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