Kremlin-backed militants abduct infants with special medical needs


40 infants in need of constant medical care have been abducted by Kremlin-backed militants from a children’s home in Luhansk.  According to the Health Ministry, this number includes 16 infants less than a year old.  The children were taken away in two buses and although they do not have any of the necessary papers, the terrorists were planning to take them into Russia.  20 members of staff have also been abducted, including the chief doctor.  According to a spokesperson from the Ombudsperson’s Secretariat, they and the Interior Ministry succeeded on Saturday night in preventing the children being taken across the border into Russia, and they are presently in a safe area of the Luhansk oblast.  They are, however, still being held by the terrorists. 

The Vostok [East] SOS Initiative has been trying without success to contact the chief doctor.  It has called on international organizations, monitoring missions in Ukraine, embassies and NGOs “to react without delay to the terrorist actions of the Russian Federation in Eastern Ukraine where, with Russia’s help to the terrorists, small children are becoming hostages.”  Further pressure on Russia is needed “to force the terrorists to let these Ukrainian orphans go and not make children a live shield”.  They must remain in Ukraine but be moved to a safe place.

Vostok SOS points out that Luhansk Regional Children’s Home No. 2 takes infants up to the age of 4 who need constant medical supervision. There are children with Down’s syndrome; various neurological abnormalities; and also some children with HIV.  The militants seized the children at 17.15 on Saturday and their current whereabouts are unknown. 

Similar calls have been issued by Ukraine’s health and foreign ministries.  Children must not be held hostage. 

This is not the first attempt to forcibly take orphans to Russia.  In early July DPR militants arrived at the Mariyinsk school-orphanage and demanded that the head of the orphanage take the children then and there to Russia.   The 54 children and their teachers categorically refused to go and they succeeded then in moving the children to Donetsk.  On July 14, the militants returned and on that occasion took 150 children from both the Mariyinsk and Donetsk school orphanages.  It is not clear how the situation was resolved, however the children on that occasion were not taken across the border.

On June 12, in contrast, children from the Snizhne Orphanage were taken by bus into Russia at a crossing under the control of the militants.  The Russian border guards, faced with only photocopied birth certificates and no other paperwork, allowed the children to be taken into their country.

The story was doubtless supposed to make the militants and Russia look like heroes, but was a crashing failure.  Nine of the 25 children broke free at the border.  The others were returned the following day after Ukraine’s Justice Ministry turned to the European Court of Human Rights. The latter applied Rule 39 obliging the Russian government to provide an explanation for the children’s illegal transportation across the border by June 17 (more details at Russian tanks and Ukrainian orphans in Moscow’s unabated offensive

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