Ukrainian Children — Stolen by Russia | DW Documentary

Ukrainian Children — Stolen by Russia | DW Documentary

Ukrainian Children — Stolen by Russia | DW Documentary

Since the start of the war, Russia has abducted many thousands of Ukrainian children. Some were told they were being sent on vacation, only to end up in Russia. Many of the children have yet to return.

The scale of abductions only became clear when the Ukrainian army began liberating Russian-occupied areas. Large numbers of children had apparently disappeared, victims of a criminal plan devised by Moscow. Russian forces had systematically scoured orphanages, maternity wards and children’s hospitals, transferring Ukrainian children to Russia. Ukrainian families had also been instructed to send their children to supposed Russian vacation camps.

Once removed from Ukraine, aid organizations say, the children found themselves in an alien environment, separated from their language, culture, customs and religion. The children were housed in hospitals, children’s homes or foster families. They were assigned Russian passports, and many were forcibly adopted into Russian families. In the meantime, the International Criminal Court in The Hague has issued arrest warrants against President Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, his commissioner for children’s rights. Maria Lvova-Belova. They stand accused of arranging for the forcible deportation and transfer of children from Ukraine to Russia.

From Kyiv to Kherson, to Odesa and into Russia itself: this report follows the forcible transfer and ‘russification’ of Ukrainian children and youth. The investigation of this war crime includes testimony from affected families and children, as well as Ukrainian social workers and officials.

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Video Transcript

I’m crying M Kaba CEO of save Ukraine rescue fund just U after the occupation of territories of hon and hary region we recognize that it’s a lot of children who been abducted who were deported forcibly deported to the rush or or crimeia and we we plan how we can return them to

Ukraine so who’s this for here you crying too I can’t believe I’m back home makes me want to cry when we return kids uh we document This is war crimes because uh every child is a witness of war crimes the moment I left Russia I felt very relieved

Since their return to Ukraine 2 days ago Lisa and her friends have been staying a few kilometers outside of keev the exact location cannot be revealed for security reasons their families are still living in the south of the country not far from the front line I’m angry at Russia because of all the

Ukrainian children they kidnapped we didn’t want it and some kids are still there we can’t get them back and we don’t know what’s going to happen to them they could be anywhere save Ukraine is a Ukrainian NGO working to help bring deported children back home it has a team of around 100 volunteers

The this department is responsible for the deported children we’re trying to bring back to Ukraine it’s headed by Mira Slava she’s a lawyer first we get a phone call about a missing child or we hear about it through social Media or our Volunteers in the liberated territories we then look into how the

Child disappeared and try to determine their current location the parents or Guardians often know very little about their child’s whereabouts that’s why we Tred to find out more information and then handle the logistical side of bringing that child back the ngo’s work begins as soon as a child disappear

Peers but how do these children become separated from their families how is Russia exploiting the chaos of War to abduct young ukrainians to find out more we head to the south of the country Russia had occupied part of this region for the best part of a year in November 2022

They were ousted by Ukrainian forces we left hon after The Liberation because the Russians were bombarding it it’s nice here you have birds singing the sun shining and dogs barking but I still want to go home Alesia sinsa has two daughters miroslava is seven years old Sophia is

15 she agrees to an interview but doesn’t want to show her face on camera her story began shortly after the invasion when Russian forces captured the city of hon Sophia went to a Ukrainian School under the occupation it was turned into a Russian school but she still wanted to go

Because it was her school the teachers offered to take us to a summer camp at first they talked about how cool it would be but then they insisted that we go they said we could fake up our parents signature if they didn’t want to sign they said we’d be gone for 10

Days on October 14th 2022 Sophia and her schoolmates were taken by bus and then boat to a holiday camp in the Russian town of Anapa 10 days later they were told they would not be returning to Ukraine we called the principal to ask when we’d be coming home but he didn’t answer the

Phone we tried again and again for a whole three days and he still didn’t pick up I was shocked we all were we realized that it had been a trap and that our situation was hopeless Sophia wrote to me on December the 20th that she wanted to come

Home she said come and get me now I explained it wasn’t that easy and started making inquiries but getting her back was impossible the Russians then made an offer to Sophia and the 600 other young ukrainians in her Camp they said if you want to go home

You need a Russian passport since you’re 14 you don’t have a Ukrainian one you need a Russian one what could I do I had no choice it was all set up to return as few children as possible to their parents no doubt about it sopia left house on on October the

14th and already had a Russian passport on the 25th how can a passport be issued in just 10 days on April the 9th I headed for ke where another mother was waiting for me from there we got on a bus to warsa and then some volunteers took us to breast in

Bellarus it was dark by the time we got to the border the worst part was being interrogated in bellarus and Russia they questioned me for more than an hour and a half in the middle of the night it was emotionally exha in they asked me where I wanted to go

And why the questions were really intimidating finally I was able to catch a flight to Moscow a car came to pick me up and then we drove to Crimea another 3 hours later I reached Sophia and we went home straight away on April 8th 2023 after 7 months in

Russia Sophia was reunited with her mother I didn’t realize at first that I was leaving Russia right up to the last moment I didn’t think it would happen and couldn’t believe I was back in Ukraine I was desperate to come back home and was so happy I was so

Happy why are the Russians doing this I guess they want to destroy our people but from a human point of view I don’t understand how you can do these sorts of things I just don’t get it the sinsa family story is a familiar one in the parts of ukra ukine that came

Under Russian occupation thousands of Ukrainian children were brought to what were supposedly vacation camps the camps are part of a campaign of total russification Daria harasim chuk is an adviser on children’s rights to the Ukrainian president she says what’s happening to Ukrainian children in Russian camps is a for of

Indoctrination they’re not allowed to say they’re Ukrainian speak Ukrainian or talk about their families instead they’re taught the Russian language Russian culture and history every day begins with the Russian national anthem if a child refuses to stand up or sing they’re denied food or punished this video was shot 9 months

Into the war it shows Young Young ukrainians from occupied territories being taken to a rather unusual Holiday Camp in Chia the young people here are given a patriotic spiritual and moral education in this camp in Crimea Russian President Vladimir Putin himself gave an address to hundreds of teenagers including Young ukrainians from occupied

Territories hello everyone you’re in Camp artech which is home for everyone who took part in our great change competition we’re now welcoming young people from all regions of our nation vacation camps such as these are a legacy of the former Soviet Union we were able to film one of these camps

From a careful distance a historian who wished to remain anonymous due to the harsh repression of critical voices in Russia explained the idea behind these camps we’re in Leningrad region in the village of kitza near St Petersburg the summer camp on the other side of that fence was built in the Soviet

Era parents would send their children on vacation here and pay next to nothing parents could receive vouchers at work in order to send their children to these camps she says there are still more than 3,000 camps like this across Russia Ukrainian children end up sent as far away as

Siberia the camps had a military style routine and still do I compared the daily schedules in terms of form and structure the system set up in the 1920s hasn’t changed nothing has changed hon in southern Ukraine was occupied by Russian forces for almost 9 months since its liberation by Ukrainian

Forces it’s continued to come under Relentless bombardment as part of a program of russification Moscow even abducted Ukrainian children from local orphanages When The War Began there were 52 children between the age of three and 18 living here vol Sak is the director of a rehabilitation center for children in

Harison most of the children’s rooms are on the first floor this one is for teenagers four boys lived here this is our tree of Joy with photos of the 52 children who lived here during the occupation stories about children being deported spread like wild fire through the occupied

Areas volodimir had also heard the rumors before the Russians arrived at his orphanage I thought if I don’t hide the kids or we’re not evacuated then the same thing is going to happen here they’ll end up in Russia when it became clear that we weren’t going to be evacuated and we’re on our

Own I started thinking about how to hide the kids we had 17 kids in the homes of Staff members teachers nurses and social workers to be on the safe side we invented fake background stories for them in the end five teenagers were left when the Russians arrived on June 4th they were with

Me the Russians arrival was filmed in secret on the video you can see the door opening the footage came from the center’s surveillance cameras the security guard lets in two FSB officers and Two Soldiers two masked and armed soldiers demand to be shown around the orphanage they want to know where the children

Are one of the FSB officers is seen checking the orphanages records but he doesn’t find what he’s looking for volodimir and the five teenagers say nothing Al these kids are real Patriots they didn’t want to talk to the Russians they just said they were fine and didn’t need anything and they

Refused to have their photos taken the Russians didn’t take the teens with them apparently because there were too few of them a few kilometers away the Russians continued their search in the maternity clinic and the Children’s Hospital here too the children were saved thanks to the courage of Staff members

These windows look out onto the neur river the Russian shot at us from the other side a missile landed here on New Year’s Eve we piled up sandbags against the windows this baby was born in the 30th week and had a serious pneumonia we were caring for the baby

All the maternity clinics were attacked by missiles every single one soldiers entered the hospital pretending to be doctors unfortunately our head physician gave them a warm welcome they told us to hand over a list of the children so they could evacuated but we knew what that would mean so we changed the Children’s

Medical Records to make them appear sicker than they were we set up a fake Intensive Care Unit complete with monitors electrocardiograph machines and all the other equipment we issued reports twice daily that said the children were too sick to be transferred every day at the start of my

Shift my colleagues would tell me in the Handover that the children in serious condition were too sick to be transferred if our boss had stopped by he’d have seen through it immediately but fortunately he didn’t come by these are the rooms where we put the supposedly sick

Children the entire team fought to keep them from being taken to Russia Crimea or even further away our strategy was a joint effort no one broke ranks and the Russians didn’t manage to deport any of the children eventually Heron was liberated by the Ukrainian Army BL

We were so happy to see the Russians leave we were a bit scared at first and then just relieved they were gone many ukrainians risked everything to hide children and for Russia keeping children in vacation camps was just the first step the russification program organized by Moscow went well beyond

That Ivan matovski and Maxim boo managed to escape they came very close to never seeing Ukraine again moxim is an orphan Ivan’s mother lost custody of him the two teenagers now live in an orphanage we don’t like like this guy which is why we put this on the

Door so that everyone knows what we think Ukraine will win the two boys story began in marup one month after the war started they shot this video on March 20th 2022 2 on the morning after a night of bombardment on March 20th we set out for manush on

Foot we passed what used to be a Ukrainian checkpoint but was now a Russian one from there we were taken to the hospital the head nurse heard that we were orphans and because manush was now occupied they called the social welfare office in donet the next morning people arrived to pick us

Up the boys were subjected to Russian propaganda from the day of their abduction with a camera running the pro Russian mayor claimed to be their rescuer even wearing a medical smok for greater credibility you listening to the doctors and taking your medicine yes then you’ll be doing better soon thank God you got

Out of there alive the war is now over for you your home and you’ll grow up in a caring and safe environment you’ll be in good hands you can get back to your daily lives including school we’ll take care of everything we didn’t expect that we still hadn’t been able to recover from

Marup and we’re kind of half asleep I couldn’t sleep properly and then he comes along promising all this stuff they said we could go to high school in just one week’s time and promised we’d be in a really nice orphanage but we stayed in the hospital nothing happened they interrogated us twice

Because our conversations were suspicious there were a lot of children from marup sent with us to donet who’ been separated from their parents but their parents no longer had custody ion and Maxim have their teacher Anton victorovich to thank for their return to Ukraine take a seat 3 months after their arrival in

Donet he picked them up from occup Ed territory just in time thank God they weren’t taken to Russia all the other children were promised that they would return but none of them did Philip was in that group to Maria lavova belova adopted him and even boasted about giving him a phone for his

Birthday so heroic God forgive me but I wish you were dead this is Maria laa belova with the boy she forcibly adopted Phillip and this is her on February 16th 2023 talking to Vladimir Putin I’ve been visiting hospitals in particular regions that are treating children injured by explosions it’s shocking to hear but

They say they were shot in the back by Ukrainian soldiers especially in marup Maria lavova belova is Russia’s presidential commissioner for children’s rights personally appointed by Vladimir Putin this is for you since the beginning of the war she’s made repeated public appearances in occupied areas posing on camera at the

Bedside of Ukrainian children what’s it for it will help me get better laa belova encourages Russian families to adopt children deported from Ukraine this is the Final Phase in the program of russification coordinated together with Vladimir Putin we’ve compiled a list of children who already have the required documentation meaning Russian

Citizenship why not the ones who aren’t Russian there are administrative rules that we have to respect tell me which ones you mean and we’ll get around them right now we have to prioritize the children’s interests over bureaucracy two months after that conversation Putin signed a decree making it easier for Russian families to

Adopt Ukrainian children the Russian propaganda machine immediately swung into action with documentaries like this one apparently showing Ukrainian children living happy lives after their forced adoption by Russians this is my nice big family my dad and my beloved mom the international criminal court in the ha accused Maria lavova belova and

Vladimir Putin of war crimes and issued arrest warrants for overseeing the abduction and deportation of children the Russian media of course say the kidnapped Ukrainian children were evacuated as a noble act of kindness for their own good but that’s all nonsense all the decisions made by the Russian

Authorities to make it easier to change children’s nationality and adopt them Pro that they never had any intention of returning the children this is not an evacuation according to our figures Russia abducted two to 300,000 Ukrainian children we have specific evidence of the deportation of some 9

18,400 children but so far we’ve only managed to bring 366 of them back home philli still lives with the woman who adopted him Maria lavova Bova Ivon who survived the assault on marup has been in touch with him I write to him regularly he tells me how he’s doing I ask how they’re

Treating him he seems to be okay but he doesn’t like that the woman works for that guy Putin he’s staying upbeat and is still Pro Ukraine as the war continues Ukraine is determined to liberate other areas from occupation and many believe that children there have also been deported

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