- Reports from the Associated Press and The New York Times highlight deportations of Ukrainian children.
- Some children are being brought to Russia, where legislation has fast-tracked adoptions.
- A 14-year-old told the Times said she was taken against her will and wanted to return to Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials said thousands of children were taken by Russian forces from occupied areas of Ukraine and forcibly deported to Russian-occupied territories or Russia itself, where adoption of the children has been fast-tracked.
One child, a 14-year-old girl identified only as Anya, told The New York Times she was taken against her will and is still stuck in Russia, living with a foster family. She said she was on track to become a Russian citizen, even though she wants to return to her friends and family in Ukraine.
“I didn’t want to go,” she told the Times, who interviewed her via instant messages and voice memos. “But nobody asked me.”
Anya is just one example among recent reports on Russia’s efforts to adopt Ukrainian children and raise them as Russian. Ukrainian officials as early as April said Russian forces were “forcibly deporting” kids and fast-tracking adoptions. An official count tracked by the Ukrainian government says more than 8,700 have been deported, but the figure is difficult to track.
US officials in September said Russian authorities had overseen the deportation of thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia, adding the “efforts specifically include the forced adoption of Ukrainian children into Russian families” and “the so-called ‘patriotic education’ of Ukrainian children.”
US officials also said the efforts involved legislation aimed at expediting the process of granting Russian citizenship to Ukrainian kids and the “deliberate removal of Ukrainian children by Russia’s forces.”
Russia has not given a number for how many Ukrainian children have been brought over, but frequently broadcasts the arrival of kids described as Ukrainian orphans, according to an Associated Press investigation. Russian state media shows the children as though they were abandoned and saved from the war, being welcomed with teddy bears, the Times reported.
Although Russia has said the children who have been deported did not have parents or guardians, reports contradict those claims. Some of the children are being taken from institutional homes, such as Anya, who was in a home for tuberculosis patients — but not all children residing in such homes are orphans, according to the Times.
AP also identified children who were not orphans but had been lied to and told their parents didn’t want them. Still, even when kids are parentless, the action of removing children could signify an attempt at genocide, or a desire to wipe out Ukrainian culture and identity, the outlet reported.
Russian forces have also been accused of committing war crimes nearly since the conflict began. Investigators commissioned by the United Nations concluded in September that several war crimes had been committed, including the rape and torture of civilians, and also noted evidence of forced deportations.