Russia has kidnapped more than 16,000 children from Ukraine: UA official

Photo: A group of children walks past a banner depicting the 'Monument to Polite People' with a slogan reading 'Nine years together. Crimean spring' as part of the events celebrating the ninth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea, in Simferopol, Crimea; EPA/STRINGER

Russia has snatched more than 16,000 children from Ukraine, by force. These children are then Russified and trained to fight against their native Ukrainians, claims the Ukrainian Ombudsman for Children's Rights, Daria Herasymchuk.

“The Russians came to Ukraine with a perfectly prepared plan, they knew what they wanted - to annihilate the Ukrainian nation, and that is why they kill children, kidnap them, give them up for adoption, and change their citizenship. This is a planned genocide of the Ukrainian people,” Herasymchuk declared.

According to the official Ukrainian documentation, Russians have taken 16,226 children from Ukraine. As yet, only 308 of them have been returned to their families in Ukraine.

“We are talking about hundreds of thousands of kidnapped children. Russians claim that they evacuated 738,000 children, but everyone understands that this is not an evacuation, but a forced deportation,” Herasymchuk added.

Ukrainian authorities claim the fate of many of the children is unknown since part of Ukraine's territory is still occupied. The actual number of kidnapped children may increase once Ukrainians regain control of occupied territories.

Ukrainian children who end up in Russia are usually children taken from orphanages. Other children are also those taken from parents who are detained by the Russian authorities.

Herasymchuk then explained how children from orphanages are transported en masse.

“Russians do not agree to any humanitarian corridors so that we can take them to Ukraine-controlled territory. These children are first detained in the occupied territories and then end up in Russia,” she pointed out.

In some cases, Russian authorities take children away on the pretext they will be offered some kind of treatment. These children later have difficulties contacting their families once the Russians actually confiscate their phones and forbid them to inform relatives of their whereabouts. According to Herasymchuk, most of the children do not end up returning to their families.

Forceful Russification

“Children who are taken to Russia are subjected to Russification. They are forbidden to speak Ukrainian and they feed them with Russian propaganda. Many of them are placed in military camps and are being prepared for war against their own people,” claims Herasymchuk.

According to the Ukrainian Ombudsman for Children's Rights, the Russians are evidently consciously breaking the rules of international law as to the adoption of children.

Children who make it in getting back to their families often return with deep traumas. All of them are tended to with psychological and medical help since many of them have wounds sustained as a result of the hostilities.

“Children are the future of every country. The Russians are trying to steal our future by kidnapping our children. That is why we will fight for every child, no matter where they are,” declared Herasymchuk.