war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Children 'beaten for supporting Ukraine'. Seventeen kids returned after being held in Russian-occupied Crimea

Halya Coynash
Children returned home by the Save Ukraine Centre From a video posted by the NGO
Children returned home by the Save Ukraine Centre From a video posted by the NGO

Seventeen Ukrainian children have been rescued and returned to their families, after a supposed ‘summer camp’ in Russian-occupied Crimea turned into six months effective captivity.  The children were forced to sing the Russian national anthem and report facing punitive measures, including beatings, if they expressed pro-Ukrainian views.

The rescue mission was launched by the Save Ukraine Centre who explain that the children and young teenagers are from parts of the Kharkiv and Kherson oblasts previously under Russian occupation.  They were taken to occupied Crimea or to Russia, purportedly just for summer camps, however after Ukraine’s Armed Forces drove the invaders from the children’s homes, Russia refused to return them. Officially, the parents were told that they could come and collect the children, however this was physically next to impossible, as the invaders, in retreating from Kherson, had blown up the bridge.  In order to get to the children, they would have needed to travel first to Poland, then Belarus, then Russia and to occupied Crimea.   There were also legitimate grounds for fearing that the parents would also be seized and prevented from returning.  

The children told Current Time how they’d had to get up each day with the Russian national anthem.  A small Ukrainian flag which one of the girls had in her room was set alight, by somebody called Astakhov, who was supposedly in charge of ‘safety’.  He told the kids “Come and watch how your country burns”.

Then they gathered us together and said: “Ukraine, they’re terrorists, they kill people, children.  Ukraine doesn’t need you. <>  They took sticks and hit you, if you were for Ukraine. You had to say that you’re for Russia.”

It was the children themselves who put their parents in contact with ‘Save Ukraine’.  One of the girls, who had heard about the organization from friends, managed to get send the number to her parents. 

Mykola Kuleba, founder of Save Ukraine referred to the recent arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court against Russian President Vladimir Putin and the latter’s so-called Commissioner on children’s rights Maria Lvova-Belova.  The ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan announced on 17 March that the warrants are because there are reasonable grounds for concluding that both “bear criminal responsibility for the unlawful deportation and transfer of Ukrainian children from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation”.  

The ICC decision is a sign to the entire world, Kuleba said.  “Putin is a criminal and this is a war crime.  It’s no evacuation, it’s deportation!”. 

While Russia has claimed that it is ‘evacuating’ orphans, there have been a number of cases where the Russians first imprisoned children’s parents, and then put them up for adoption, or made no effort to find a child’s parents or other family.

See, for example, the case of the Mezhyvyi family:  Invaders seize and imprison former Ukrainian soldier, then kidnap his three children to Russia ‘for adoption’

As reported, neither Putin, nor Lvova-Belova have concealed their direct roles in facilitating the deportation of children to occupied Crimea or Russia and in children being handed over in Russia for adoption.

There had been warnings months ago, first in Kharkiv oblast, then with respect to occupied parts of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts, that the Russians were taking children to occupied Crimea or Russia and then refusing to return them.  Here too, there was no great secrecy about Russia’s intentions, with Russian-installed collaborator Volodymyr Saldo announcing in early October 2022 that children from Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts would be sent “for rehabilitation” to occupied Crimea and Russia.  He named several Russian oblasts that had issued “invitations” and claimed that children would have the opportunity “to rest and to get to know new peers”.   

In February 2023, the Humanitarian Research Lab at Yale School of Public Health published an extensive study, entitled ‘Russia’s systematic program for the re-education & adoption of Ukraine’s children’. The report found evidence of a “large-scale, systematic network of camps and other facilities that has held at least 6,000 children from Ukraine within Russia-occupied Crimea and mainland Russia during the past year.”  The facilities, it was believed, serve a range of purposes, including ‘re-education’ – indoctrinating children to make them pro-Russian in their personal and political views.

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