Julia Sidorenko, graduate of Association’s expert, Professor Borys Babin
It was repeatedly reported that the large-scale aggression of the Russian Federation became the background for the Russian occupiers to commit a number of war crimes, including the deportation of Ukrainian youth. As the Association of Reintegration of Crimea (ARC) has already written, this aggression worsened both the situation with children’s rights in the occupied Crimea and created new challenges for children in the war zone and in the newly Russia-occupied areas of Kherson, Zaporizhzhya, Donetsk and other regions of Ukraine.
Already on February 28, 2022, UN structures demanded that Russia stop violating the rights of Ukrainian children, these demands were completely ignored by the aggressor . The analysis of the relevant activities of the Russian occupiers and their guides allowed the ARC to assert that their actions fully fall within the scope of the crime of genocide, namely paragraph “e” of Article II of the relevant Convention: “forcible transfer of children from one human group to another” .
The Russian occupiers partially admitted their criminal activities regarding the deportation of residents of the Kherson Region to the Crimea and through the occupied peninsula to Russia proper. ARC wrote that the occupiers are ready to keep deported Ukrainian citizens in the Crimea, except for obvious collaborators, only temporarily, until they are transported to Russia, and mainly in Dzhankoy and Yevpatoria .
The Association reported that since the summer of 2022, the Russian invaders have made the once resort city of Yevpatoria a kind of “center” for these criminal processes. In particular, in Yevpatoria, the Russian occupiers concentrated up to 2,000 criminally “evacuated” children in September on the basis of Ukrainian departmental children’s sanatoriums seized in 2014: “Druzhba”, “Zdravnitsa”, “Luchistiy”, “Mriya” and “Chaika”. From approximately November 2022, the children were in difficult living conditions, had significant problems with food and warm things .
Until December 2022, many occupiers and collaborators were doing criminal “PR” against the background of children. Later, from the last days of December 2022, all these “evacuated” children were suddenly, without warning, and en masse taken out of occupied Yevpatoria by the structures of the aggressor, but they did not return to the Kherson Region, in particular, to its Russian-occupied part .
Later, on January 19, 2023, the aggressor’s structures stated in their fake “refutations” that allegedly 128 children “remain” in occupied Yevpatoria, but at the same time, even in their criminal propaganda, puppets of the invaders did not say anything at all about the fate of others previously deported to Yevpatoria children.
After that, on January 26, 2023, it was reported that no less than 14 orphans from Kherson were taken out in 2022 by the Russian invaders to the Simferopol “children’s home” “Yalinka”, and about the involvement of the authorities of the Moscow Region in organizing criminal “adoption” of Ukrainian children .
Also, since the beginning of 2023, the Russian occupiers, by the illegal “rescript of the Russia’s Government dated December 31, 2022 No. 2571”, provided for the “release” of collaborators who went to illegal cooperation with the occupiers to assist in the deportation of children. This fake act criminally announced the “release of all evacuees” by “suspending the employment contract until the end of the evacuation” .
On February 6, the Russian invaders’ propaganda spread the statement of Maria Lvova-Belova, the Commissioner for children’s rights under the Russia’s President, who announced the “implementation of integration changes in the Crimea”, the so-called “Poslezatra” (“After Tomorrow”), as another criminal attack on Ukrainian children. The aggressor carried out “Poslezavtra” criminal activities with deported by Ukrainian children in 2022 as well, according to open sources, their organization in October in Krasnogorsk near Moscow at the “Lytvynove” base; before that, a similar illegal event was held in Tuapse, as early as 2022, the Russian occupiers announced another “change” that “will take place in Chechnya … and will have a military-patriotic focus”.
The “Poslezavtra” events of 2022 were used by the Russian aggressor as a criminal “ground for practice and formation of methodical materials and programs”, and now the aggressors will obviously prolong their implementation, in particular in terms of criminal psychological pressure on young people . The specified criminal acts became the subject of investigation by Ukrainian law enforcement officers and the basis for the activities of human rights defenders.
In particular, the ARC sent a relevant submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights for her thematic report to the UN Human Rights Council on the relationship between cultural rights and migration. ARC emphasized in its presentation, prepared by Dr. Borys Babin, that after the start of the large-scale aggression against Ukraine, the Russian invaders blocked the possibility of Ukrainians living in the Russia-occupied territories to reach the territory controlled by the Ukrainian government. ARC also pointed out aspects of the illegal deportation of Ukrainian youth by the Russian invaders.
The ARC noted in the submission that all minor Ukrainians, thus transported from the war zone to the Russian-occupied peninsula, were subjected to criminal “sorting”, and all their cultural needs were ignored by the Russian invaders. Deported Ukrainian minors are illegally forced by the structures of the aggressor to study the “Russian school curriculum” in the Russia-occupied Crimea and on the territory of Russia .
The Association also forwarded the report prepared by Dr. Borys Babin for the thematic study of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances regarding new technologies in the relevant field. A UN Working Group is investigating how new technologies are being used to facilitate the tracing, investigation and prosecution of this crime, with a view to further discussing the issue at the UN Human Rights Council session in September 2023.
In the corresponding submission, the Association emphasized that it is difficult for relatives to find victims of enforced disappearances, as Russia-controlled punitive structures exercise complete control over mobile communications and the Internet in the Russia-occupied territories of Ukraine .
Also, the Association directed in February 2022 a message prepared by Dr. Borys Babin to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, Professor Felipe Morales for his report on how to expand and diversify regularization mechanisms and programs to strengthen the protection of human rights for migrants.
In a message available on official UN sources, the ARC reminded the UN bodies that the Russian aggressor grossly violates all the rights of migrants established by international human rights law and humanitarian law regarding illegally displaced persons, including children, criminally deported to the Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine and to Russia itself .
International acts condemn the criminal deportation of Ukrainian children by the aggressor. In particular, on December 15, the UN General Assembly adopted another annual resolution, which states that the occupation regime forced a large number of Crimean residents to flee, notes the facts of criminal abduction of the population by the occupiers to and from Crimea, as well as criminal “filtering procedures” that are applied, in particular, to displaced persons .
Also in 2022, the Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Issue of Modern Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance A/HRC/50/61 was published. The UN Special Rapporteur described the catastrophic damage caused to Ukraine as the ARC stressed, and in particular she pointed to the kidnappings and deportations committed by the Russian invaders. Report A/HRC/50/61 reflects the possibility that the Russia’s government is preparing to conduct a criminal mass deportation of the Crimean Tatar population from the occupied Crimea .
Resolution 2482 (2023) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe “Legal and human rights aspects of the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine” approved on January 26, 2023  should also be cited. This act refers to the aggressor’s crimes of enforced disappearance; kidnapping; rape and other forms of sexual violence; illegal deprivation of liberty of civilians; forcible transfer and deportation of Ukrainian citizens, including children, to Russia or to Russia-occupied territories; forced illegal “passportization”.
There are good reasons to believe, PACE points out, that many of these violations are serious violations of the Geneva Conventions and war crimes, and some are crimes against humanity as part of large-scale, systematic attacks on the civilian population of Ukraine. Therefore, the PACE noted in the resolution that there is increasing evidence that Russian official rhetoric, which is used to “justify” the full-scale invasion and aggression against Ukraine, the so-called “de-Ukrainization” process, has the character of public incitement to genocide and reveals genocidal intent destroy the Ukrainian national group as such or at least a part of it.
In Article 17 of the PACE resolution, the PACE also called on the Ukrainian authorities to pay special attention to the activation of all relevant procedures for gathering information and ensuring the safe return of forcibly displaced Ukrainian children from Russia and the Russia-occupied territories.
In addition, the issue of aggressor’s criminal deportation of Ukrainian children is reflected in a number of documents approved by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (VRU). Thus, in the Statement of the VRU “On the Russian Federation’s Perpetration of Genocide in Ukraine”, approved by VRU Resolution No. 2188-IX of April 14, 2022 , it is stated that acts of genocide in the Russia’s actions are manifested, in particular, in the forced transfer of Ukrainian children to the Russian territory and transferring them for upbringing to a foreign environment with the aim of destroying their self-identification as Ukrainians.
In this dimension, the Statement reminds of Russia’s centuries-old policy aimed at “de-Ukrainization”, the absorption of the Ukrainian nation by distorting and appropriating its history, achievements in the fields of science, culture and art.
Also, the VRU Statement indicates that behind the aggressor-declared “denazification” of Ukraine, the true motives of Russian aggression are actually hidden – the destruction of the Ukrainian people, their identity and the deprivation of their right to independent development. In the explanatory note to the Statement, the People’s Deputies also emphasized that the forcible transfer of Ukrainian children to the Russia’s territory or to the tRussia-occupied territory of Ukraine is a manifestation of genocide.
It should also be mentioned the VRU Appeal to the UN Committee on Human Rights, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the UN International Court of Justice, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, approved by VRU Resolution No. 2306-IX dated June 19, 2022 . In this Appeal, the Ukrainian Parliament notes that the most worrying today is the Russia’s illegal actions regarding the abduction and forced deportation of Ukrainian children to the territory of the aggressor state, other states or within the occupied territories of Ukraine.
In the Appeal, the VRU once again states that in violation of all norms of international law, Russia forcibly deports to its territory and relocates millions of Ukrainian citizens, including children, including orphans and children deprived of parental care, to the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.
As it is stated in the VRU Appeal, thousands of children who ended up in the temporarily occupied territories and the territory of the aggressor state are hostages of the occupying state. Children are very easy to manipulate and use for their own purposes, including for propaganda. Russia’s forced removal of Ukrainian children, especially orphans and children deprived of parental care, children whose parents died in the Russia’s war against Ukraine, is a gross violation of the rights and freedoms of such children, the VRU Appeal states.
It is also necessary to cite the following VRU Appeal to the same international structures, approved by VRU Resolution No. 2947-IX of February 24, 2023 . It states that Russia is trying to ethnically cleanse the territory of Ukraine, committing mass atrocities, deliberate killings of civilians, carrying out mass deportations, moving Ukrainian children – citizens of Ukraine and children who lived on the territory of Ukraine, seizing and looting objects of cultural heritage of Ukraine from with the aim of destroying any artefacts testifying to the authenticity of Ukraine, the national identity of Ukrainians, and in general the destruction of Ukrainian culture and statehood.
The new VRU Appeal adds that Russia continues to violate the fundamental principles of child protection in wartime by forcibly deporting Ukrainian children to the territory of the aggressor state or within the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, prevents the return of such children and tries to “re-educate” them, make them pro-Russian. The Appeal states that Russia, in violation of all international agreements, has set up 43 camps for the “ideological re-education” of Ukrainian children on its territory and in the occupied Crimea.
In almost a year, at least 6,000 Ukrainian children passed through such camps, as stated by the spokesman of the US State Department, Ned Price, referring to the official report of the Conflict Observatory” program, the new VRU Appeal notes. The document states that in many cases, Russia allegedly temporarily evacuates children from the territory of Ukraine under the guise of rehabilitating them in free summer camps, but in fact subsequently prevents the children from returning to their parents or legal representatives.
The Russia’s attempt to “ideologically re-educate” Ukrainian children, to make them pro-Russian, indicates the desire to destroy their national identity, which is an act of genocide, the new VRU Appeal points out, adding that the specified war crimes committed by Russia lead to the trauma of a whole generation of Ukrainian children.
The new VRU Appeal contains a reference to the resolution of the European Parliament dated February 16, 2023, where this EU body condemned the forcible deportation of thousands of Ukrainian children to the territory of the aggressor state, the implementation of the policy of genocide and ethnic cleansing to destroy the Ukrainian national identity and, in general, the cessation of the existence of Ukrainian culture and statehood.
On behalf of the Ukrainian people, the VRU appealed to the authorized bodies of the UN in order to stop the genocide of the Ukrainian people in terms of the forced deportation to the territory of the aggressor state or within the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine of children – citizens of Ukraine and children who lived on the territory of Ukraine; to return of children – citizens of Ukraine and children who lived on the territory of Ukraine to their parents or legal representatives.
Therefore, the cited decisions of international institutions and the Verkhovna Rada show that the violation of the rights of deported Ukrainian children acquired the characteristics of genocide and they are now one of the most large-scale and significant violations of international law by Russia during its large-scale aggression. The investigation of the relevant crimes related to the occupied Crimea and the aggressor’s criminal “administration” there should definitely become the basis for additional expert analysis.