Since the Russian invasion, more than 10 1,000 Ukrainian children have been forcibly adopted in Russia, according to Oksana Filipishyna, an independent rights protection expert of the child, to the French newspaper Le Monde. Russian authorities admit a smaller but still alarming figure: 2,000 children and teenagers, orphans due to the conflict or refugees. International communities consider this a crime against humanity. For Russians, however, it is about “taking what is already ours”.
This phrase was said by Olga Drujinina, a woman from Siberia interviewed by the New York Times. She adopted four Ukrainian children aged between six and 17 years, all from Donetsk Oblast. “Our family is like a little Russia. Russia welcomed four territories and family, four children”, he described. She said that she expects the arrival of a fifth Ukrainian and considers them to be completely Russian.
A girl interviewed by the American newspaper, Ania, from 14 years old, fled his house that was burned down in Mariupol, where he was recovering from tuberculosis. The bus that was supposed to take her to Zaporizhzhia was diverted to a Russian checkpoint, as revealed by the teenager and other children who were in the same vehicle. They were taken to Donetsk, the eponymous capital of the administrative region occupied by pro-Russian separatists since 2014. According to the American newspaper, the self-proclaimed pro-Russian republic is at the center of President Vladimir Putin’s adoption policy.
The girl, who now lives in a foster family near Moscow , will soon become officially Russian. “I do not want it. My friends and family aren’t here,” lamented Ania to the NYT via voicemail.
Ania and other children described a painful process of coercion and use of force when they were sent to Russia . The reports add to a growing number of evidence collected by governments and journalistic vehicles about a policy of adopting vulnerable children.
According to the American newspaper, to convince older children, Moscow advertises an exceptional life in Russia. “They said, ‘If you want to buy new things or clothes, just tell us. Let’s buy whatever you want. If your parents abandoned you, it’s because they don’t need you. We’ll help you,’” 17-year-old Timofeï told the New York Times.
In May, Putin instituted a streamlined process for nationalizing minors. Ukrainians. The first boys and girls to arrive in the country, in April, became Russian citizens in July. The Russian government makes it clear that its aim is to replace any childlike attachment to home with a love of Russia. The Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the country, Maria Lvova-Belov, was responsible for organizing the transfers and she herself adopted a teenager from Mariupol.
Transferring people from an occupied territory can be considered a war crime and, according to experts, an even more problematic practice when it involves children, who may not be able to give their opinion. Ukraine accuses Russia of committing genocide. The forcible transfer of children, when intended to destroy a national group, is indeed an act of genocide under international law, provided that an exorbitant number of victims is proven. In September, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning these atrocities. And the European Union announced on Wednesday (30) that it will set up a special court to investigate war crimes in Ukraine.
“It is deeply painful when history repeats itself like this before our eyes. Practices employed by Communist and Nazi dictatorships are now used by the Putin regime against the Ukrainian people. The deportation of thousands of innocent children, deprived of a peaceful childhood and torn from their families and their country, is a crime against humanity”, analyzed MEP Evin Incir. “Putin must be arrested. Crimes against humanity committed by Russia must stop. We cannot let history repeat itself in Ukraine or anywhere else”, he concluded.
This system of The deportation is part of Putin’s broader strategy of treating Ukraine as part of Russia and projecting its invasion, seen as illegal by the West, as a noble cause.
“For Putin, and for part of the russian population, ukrainians and russians form part of the same ethnic group, with similar languages (we can make the comparison between portuguese and spanish), similar religions (the eastern part of ukraine is orthodox, as is russia, while the is mostly Catholic), and with a common history”, analyzed David Fernando Santiago Villena Del Carpio, doctor in law, master in law and international relations and professor at Universidade Positivo (UP), highlighting that it is a “Russification of Ukraine ”, in an attempt to erase the history and culture of the neighboring country.
Del Carpio recalled that and Putin seeks to project an image within Russia that he is helping these “lonely children”, as if “Mother Russia” were rescuing her children. And this is very important for the Russian representative to be able to legitimize the invasion. “It doesn’t matter if the war is fair or unfair, the important thing is to have the support, the legitimacy of the nation to continue”, observed the professor.
In addition, according to Del Carpio, Putin prepares these children who will one day be able to occupy Ukraine. “If they return to Ukrainian territory, they will have a distorted perception of Ukraine, as they have absorbed and assimilated what Russia thinks”, he described.
Bureaucratic barriers to judging crimes
The forced adoption of Ukrainian children can be judged as a war crime, because, as the Rome Statute explains, there is the deportation or transfer of part of the population of the occupied territory outside the country. However, according to Del Carpio, it is still too early to think about genocide, because “the number of victims is much smaller” than is usually related to this type of crime.
This forced deportation of children can also constitute a crime against humanity, considering that it is committed in a generalized or systematic way by Russian forces. Therefore, the Russian State is actively participating in this operation, which is directed against the non-combatant civilian population.
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) states in Article 7 that the deportation or forced transfer of a population constitutes a crime against humanity, but Russia has not signed this text, as have the United States and China. As such, the ICC has no jurisdiction to investigate crimes on Russian territory. It would then be necessary to take this request to the UN Security Council, so that it authorizes this investigation. However, Russia is a permanent member with the right of veto of this council, and China, with the same power, is an ally of the country commanded by Putin.