US-backed report says Russia has held at least 6,000 Ukrainian children for “re-education.”
By Jonathan Landay and Simon Lewis
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Russia has held at least 6,000 Ukrainian children – likely many more – in facilities in Russian-controlled Crimea and in Russia whose primary purpose is political re-education, according to a US-backed report released on Tuesday, according to a US-backed report released on Tuesday seems to be.
According to the report, Yale University researchers have identified at least 43 camps and other facilities holding Ukrainian children who were part of a “large-scale systematic network” operated by Moscow since its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
The children included those with parents or clear family guardianship, those considered orphans in Russia, others who were in the care of Ukrainian state institutions prior to the invasion, and those whose custody was unclear or uncertain due to the war called it.
“The primary purpose of the camp facilities we identified appears to be political re-education,” said Nathaniel Raymond, one of the researchers, in a briefing to reporters.
Some of the children were brought through the system and adopted by Russian families or placed in foster homes in Russia, the report said.
The youngest child identified in the Russian program was just four months old, and some camps gave military training to children as young as 14, Raymond said, adding that the researchers found no evidence that these Children were later used in combat.
Responding to reports that Russia is forcibly detaining children, the Russian embassy in Washington said Russia is taking in children who are being forced to flee Ukraine.
“We do our best to keep minors in families and, in cases of absence or death of parents and relatives, transfer orphans to guardianship,” the embassy said on the Telegram news platform.
It also reiterated Russia’s claims that Ukraine was using Western weapons to carry out attacks on civilian infrastructure.
Moscow has denied deliberately targeting civilians in a so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine and has denied previous claims that it forcibly expelled Ukrainians.
The report was the latest to be produced by Yale University School of Public Health’s Humanitarian Research Lab as part of a State Department-supported project investigating alleged human rights abuses and war crimes committed by Russia.
“What is documented in this report is a clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention,” the treaty that protects civilians in time of war, Raymond said.
He said it could also be evidence that Russia committed genocide during its war in Ukraine, since the transfer of children for the purpose of altering, altering or eliminating national identity could constitute a sub-act of the crime of genocide.
Ukrainian prosecutors have said they are investigating allegations of the forced deportation of children as part of efforts to bring genocide charges against Russia.
“This network stretches from one end of Russia to the other,” Raymond said, adding that the researchers believe the number of facilities holding Ukrainian children exceeds 43.
The camp system and the adoption by Russian families of Ukrainian children taken from their homeland “appear to be approved and coordinated at the highest levels of the Russian government,” the report says, from President Vladimir Putin to local officials .
State Department spokesman Ned Price indicated that action could be taken against 12 people who the report said are not yet under US sanctions.
“We are always looking for individuals who may be responsible for war crimes and atrocities in Ukraine,” he said.
“Just because we haven’t previously imposed sanctions on an individual doesn’t say anything about any future action we might take.”
(Reporting by Jonathan Landay and Simon LewisAdditional reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Himani Sarkar)