- Reports from the Associated Press and the New York Times highlight the deportations of Ukrainian children.
- Some children are brought to Russia, where legislation has accelerated adoptions.
- A 14-year-old girl told The Times she was taken against her will and wanted to return to Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials said thousands of children were taken by Russian forces to occupied areas of Ukraine and forcibly deported to Russian-occupied territories or Russia itself, where the adoption of children has been accelerated.
One child, a 14-year-old girl identified only as Anya, recounted The New York Times she was taken against her will and is still stuck in Russia, living with a foster family. She said she is on track to become a Russian citizen, although she wants to return to her friends and family in Ukraine.
“I didn’t want to go,” she told The Times, who interviewed her via instant messages and voice memos. “But nobody asked me.”
Anya is just one example among recent reports of Russian efforts to adopt Ukrainian children and raise them as Russians. Ukrainian officials said as early as April Russian forces were ‘forcibly deporting’ children and expedited adoptions. An official count followed by the Ukrainian government says more than 8,700 were deported, but the figure is hard to track.
US officials in September, said Russian authorities had overseen the deportation of thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia, adding that “the efforts specifically include the forced adoption of Ukrainian children into Russian families” and “the so-called ” patriotic education “of Ukrainian children”.
U.S. officials also said the efforts involved legislation to speed up the process of granting Russian citizenship to Ukrainian children and the “deliberate removal of Ukrainian children by Russian forces.”
Russia has not given a figure on the number of Ukrainian children brought in, but frequently broadcasts the arrival of children described as Ukrainian orphans, according to a Associated press investigation. Russian state media shows the children as if they’ve been abandoned and rescued from war, greeted with teddy bears, The Times reported.
Although Russia has said that the children who were deported had no parents or guardians, reports contradict these claims. Some of the children are taken from institutional homes, like Anya, who was in a home for tuberculosis patients – but not all children residing in such homes are orphans, according to the Times.
AP also identified children who were not orphans but who were lied to and told their parents they didn’t want them. Yet even when children are without parents, the action of removing children could signify an attempt at genocide or a desire to wipe out Ukrainian culture and identity, the outlet reported.
Russian forces have also been accused of committing war crimes almost since the start of the conflict. UN-mandated investigators concluded in September that several war crimes had been committed, including the rape and torture of civilians, and also noted evidence of forced deportations.