The Heartbreaking Stories of Ukrainian Children in Russian Custody

Kyiv claims that the Russians illegally deported close to 20,000 children from Ukraine to Russia or the occupied territories. About four hundred were adopted, mostly by Putin's closest associates and people in state services

by Sededin Dedovic
The Heartbreaking Stories of Ukrainian Children in Russian Custody
© Chris McGrath / Getty Images

The aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 left a trail of despair and heartbreak for the families of nearly 20,000 Ukrainian children who were illegally deported to Russia and the occupied territories.

The stories of these children, torn from their families, reveal the devastating impact of war on the innocent lives of children. The news raised concerns about the children's welfare, identity and legal complexities surrounding their adoption.

In the small village of Kozak in the Kherson region, 14-year-old Kosta's life took a turn for the worse when the Russian invasion began. Evacuated to the occupied town of Nova Kahovka, Kosta found himself separated from his family.

Alone and vulnerable, the occupying authorities later offered him relocation to Anapa on the Russian Black Sea coast. He was adopted by a Ukrainian family that fled to Russia and now has Russian citizenship, Deutsche Welle reports.

Kosta, one of 20,000 children who aid groups claimed were illegally deported, faced months of uncertainty before being adopted by a Ukrainian family in Russia. The family, which moved from Donetsk to Russia after the occupation in 2014, adopted Kosta.

These kinds of things in children's lives represent a complex cultural and geopolitical identity for a boy. Reports indicate that around 400 Ukrainian children have been adopted by Russian families, raising concerns about their cultural identity and human rights.

Many Ukrainians believe that in this way Russia is systematically turning Ukrainian children into Russians who are loyal to the regime. Most of those children were adopted by Putin's closest supporters and associates from the party.

The most prominent case involves a girl who was adopted by a member of the Russian State Duma and his wife, publicly boasting about it and benevolent actors who adopted orphans. However, most of these children have at least one parent who is looking for them, and the Russian authorities certainly have all the information about the children as well.

Who are adoptive parents?

The adopters of Ukrainian children in Russia are educators, military personnel, cultural workers, and even members of the clergy. As you can see, these are all activities that are closely related to the state and the regime of Vladimir Putin.

The Ukrainian Commissioner for Human Rights is demanding accountability, claiming that the rights of these children, especially freedom of movement and language use, are violated in Russian households. In an interview with a Russian guardian, Vladimir, from the Moscow region, sheds light on his role in caring for Maksim, a Ukrainian orphan.

Vladimir emphasizes his family's stance against Russian aggression and their commitment to preserving the dignity and independence of Ukraine. However, the broader consensus among Russian guardians is less clear, with concerns about the possible re-education of Ukrainian children in Russian households.

The orders of the International Criminal Court for the Russian President Vladimir Putin and his adviser Maria Lvova-Belova, accusing them of kidnapping children, add a legal dimension to the controversy, but how important is it now, bearing in mind that no one will arrest Putin.

The president of Russia has several security rings of the most trained Russian agents and moves only in friendly countries of Russia where no one will even arrest him because of a warrant issued by the International Court of Justice.

Ukrainian experts claim that the adoption of Ukrainian children by Russian families is a crime, a violation of United Nations regulations that prohibit adoption during conflict.

Ukrainian children refugees© Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Kosta's return

Kosta's emotional journey takes a surprising turn when he decides to return to Ukraine after spending time with his adoptive family in Russia.

Despite the challenges and uncertainties, Kosta expresses a sense of belonging when he sees the Ukrainian flag at the border. Save Ukraine plays a key role in the reintegration of deported children to their homeland, providing support and counseling to ease their transition.

The process of socialization of almost 390 deported children, which is conducted discreetly, involves numerous stakeholders. The reintegration of orphaned children presents a unique challenge, as they lack biological families to support them.

The debate on whether all adopted Ukrainian children should return to Ukraine is still controversial, Russia seems to be turning a blind eye to this case, so no one wants to give an answer to Ukrainian activists and politicians.

The legal implications of adopting Ukrainian children in the midst of conflict raise ethical dilemmas that require careful consideration. It is true that the adoption of children was prohibited during the conflict, but this is explained a little more widely in the UN charter.

The participation of the International Criminal Court naturally emphasizes the seriousness of the situation and calls for a thorough investigation of potential violations of international law regarding the adoption of children during armed conflicts.

After all the things that are happening around the world today, it seems that the international system and order has collapsed. We hope that these children will rebuild their lives, regain their identity and heal from the trauma, but simply the future is uncertain. Source: Deutsche Welle

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