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.

Invaders in occupied Luhansk oblast threaten to take newborn babies away if parents don’t get Russian citizenship

Halya Coynash
Russia's aggressive methods of 'passportization' at gunpoint leave no grounds for believing these to be empty threats

Melitopol raion – Russians organize ‘mobile groups’ foisting Russian citizenship on residents. Screenshot from propaganda video reposted by CJI

Melitopol raion – Russians organize ‘mobile groups’ foisting Russian citizenship on residents. Screenshot from propaganda video reposted by CJI

Russia is not only using healthcare as a weapon to force Ukrainians on occupied territory to accept Russian citizenship.  Without it, expectant mothers have been told that maternity hospitals will not hand over their newborn babies.

Artem Lysohor, Head of the Luhansk Oblast Military Administration, reported on 1 May that “in some cases” maternity wards in the so-called ‘Luhansk people’s republic’’ will hospitalize mothers about to give birth, even if they do not have Russian citizenship.  When discharging them a week later, however, they will check whether one of the parents has ‘Russian documents’.  If not, they threaten, they will not let the mothers take their own babies.

In noting Lysohor’s report, the Institute for the Study of War pointed out that, “if this report is accurate, such actions violate Article II(d) of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which defines genocide as “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.”.

There are no grounds for doubting the accuracy of this report, since Russia has been using both threats of taking children from their parents and access to healthcare as weapons in all areas of Ukraine that have fallen under its occupation.

Early in 2023, a mother from occupied Melitopol (Zaporizhzhia oblast) reported that the Russians were threatening to take children away if their parents did not register them in occupation ‘schools’.  Like many other Ukrainians, she had, until January 2023, refused to send her child to such occupation schools which were focused on brainwashing, rather than teaching children. The occupation regime, however, had begun threatening to take children away if they were not registered at such ‘schools’, while at the same time making such registration impossible unless the parents had Russian citizenship.  

Russia has aggressively pushed a ‘Russian curriculum’, as well as ‘military-patriotic organizations’ from the moment it seizes control of Ukrainian territory.  Such measures are clearly aimed at eradicating children’s Ukrainian identity and brainwashing them into believing that they are ‘Russian’.  All of this is in gross violation of international law, as documented in a study in 2023 on Russification in Occupied Ukraine by the European Broadcasting Union’s Investigative Journalism Network.  The report warned that Russia was seeking to create “an information black hole on the European continent” and spoke of Russian-installed “reality where torture, death, coercion, deportation, cultural assimilation and military indoctrination are rampant. <> potentially contravening international law and in some cases amounting to possible war crimes.”

Other methods used are equally illegal, with some positively placing Ukrainian citizens living in their own country before choice between life and death.  The occupation ‘authorities’ first made access to life-saving insulin dependent on the person accepting Russian citizenship.  Then, from 1 January 2024, essentially all healthcare became available only to those who had Russia’s mandatory medical insurance policy, with this only issued to those who have Russian citizenship.  The above-mentioned report on maternity hospitals mentioned the isolated cases where expectant mothers were still admitted to maternity ward without Russian citizenship.  In other cases, they are doubtless openly refused proper treatment.

These are not the only methods used.  In April 2023, Russian leader Vladimir Putin issued a decree, according to which Ukrainians on occupied territory who had not taken Russian citizenship by July 2024 would be deemed ‘foreigners’ in their own country.  The decree went on to list actions which would be deemed to “pose a threat to Russia’s national security” and could lead to a person’s ‘deportation’.  Most such actions were those entirely normal in any democratic country.  Such ‘deportations’ have already been applied, with a number of the victims simply vanishing without trace.

Since the aggressor state is threatening to take children away from their parents, it is worth stressing that Russia’s active deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia or occupied Crimea also bear the clear hallmarks of genocide.  It is also the grounds for the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrants against Putin and his so-called ‘children’s rights representative Maria Lvova-Belova.

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