Russian tanks and Ukrainian orphans in Moscow’s unabated offensive
A plane has brought 16 Ukrainian orphans home after they were taken by force across the border into Russia. Despite that abduction, Russian tanks and now the shooting down of a plane carrying 49 soldiers, the west is still ineffectually threatening yet again of ‘additional costs’ if Russia ‘fails to de-escalate’
A plane has brought 16 Ukrainian orphans home from Russia after their bus was seized by Kremlin-backed militants and taken by force across the border into Russia. Their abduction was one of two incidents on June 12 which marked a serious escalation in Russia’s undeclared war against Ukraine. A US State Department spokesperson
It seems worryingly likely that the militants and Russian media were hoping for a good heart-rending story about Russia as noble defender of children in danger from the Ukrainian military. They did not get it. Nine of the 25 children in the bus broke free of their ‘defenders’ at the border. The others were effectively abducted. Even if, as one of the constantly changing claims from the Russian media says, the accompanying adults supported the abductors’ behaviour, the children were taken by force and illegally into another country. Getting even one child across the Russian border without full documents and the consent of the child’s guardian would be difficult. In this case, 16 children were taken to the Rostov oblast in Russia on the basis of photocopied birth certificates only.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry issued a protest over this extraordinary violation of a bilateral agreement from 1997, and international obligations to protect children’s rights. Its Russian counterpart
This is not diplomatic speak; it is lies. The children were not refugees and it is difficult to imagine adults appreciating the ‘attention and concern’ demonstrated by the armed militants who seized the bus, let alone small children.
This difficulty may be the reason that the Russian media has been mostly silent on the subject. On Thursday, RIA Novosti
By Friday denial had become impossible.
Most Russian media opted to avoid mention of the abduction. RIA Novosti, having circulated false information once, decided to give it a second go. Its headline reads: “
"On Friday a bus with orphans, travelling from the city of Snizhne in the Donetsk oblast to the Dnipropetrovsk oblast was stopped by insurgents at a checkpoint. As a result 16 children and two adults were brought to the Russian-Ukrainian border and then to the ;Donetsk’ camp in the Rostov oblast.”
It then plunges on assuming, probably rightly, that most readers will be lulled by the DPR rhetoric and phrase ‘as a result’, and not try to find sense in the above. Ukraine’s Ambassador in Rostov is quoted as maintaining that the children were taken away illegally, but ends with Russia’s Children’s Ombudsperson Pavel Astakhov saying that yes “they were brought to the Rostov region, but this did not happen by force. At the present time the children have already been sent to Dnipropetrovsk.”
The children are safely back in Ukraine and will be taken to a children’s camp in Kryvy Rih as soon as possible.
This should not be the end of the story, and any attempt by the Russian government to brush off the action as carried out by ‘separatists’ will not wash. The so-called Donetsk People’s Republic is receiving direct assistance from Moscow, and the abduction was made possible by Russian border guards ignoring both domestic and international legislation.
That same disregard was shown when Russian tanks and men were allowed across the border into Ukraine.
Over recent months the Kremlin has consistently denied military involvement or support for the militants in Ukraine. The USA and EU have no less repeatedly stated that military intervention in mainland Ukraine will lead to a third, most painful, package of sanctions.
The New York Times
Russia has not just failed to de-escalate the situation. It is actively escalating it. Ongoing failure to react to this with anything more than additional threats of response only heightens Moscow’s belief that it can act with impunity and undermines western credibility. Ukraine is in the firing line, but much more is in the balance.