Russia's Face of Child Rights Is Accused of War Crimes

Maria Lvova-Belova, Putin accused of moving thousands of Ukrainian kids to Russia, per 'NYT'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 1, 2024 7:00 AM CST
Russia's Face of Child Rights Is Accused of War Crimes
Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia's so-called commissioner for children's rights, is seen at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on Feb. 16.   (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

Millions of Ukrainians have been killed, injured, or displaced since the war Russia started almost two years ago. Then there are "the most forlorn victims of Russia's invasion," per the New York Times: the Ukrainian children "stolen" from their homeland, taken without their or their family's consent to Russia or Russian-controlled territories. Ukraine's official count logs nearly 19,000 children transferred to Russia or Russian-controlled territories, though other estimates say that figure is closer to 300,000. "Some were wounded or orphaned in bombardments on Ukrainian towns and villages," the Times notes of Ukraine's far-flung children, many of whom Russia is reportedly trying to adopt out to Russian families. "Some were left homeless and alone after parents were detained. Others were separated from families believing they were sending their children to summer camp."

But the kids aren't simply taken from their homes: The Times notes that once settled in their new locations, the Ukrainian children undergo an "indoctrination," where anything Ukrainian (including the language and national colors) is forbidden, and history lessons and songs take a decidedly pro-Russian slant. Some of the children have been told they'll be disciplined for going to Russia if they return to Ukraine; some have even been (falsely) told their parents don't want them anymore. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his so-called commissioner of children's rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, insist they're simply providing humanitarian assistance to abandoned children—but there's a sealed arrest warrant against them both for war crimes, and some point out that the unwanted transfers could constitute genocide under the Geneva Conventions. More here on some of the children's stories. (60 Minutes recently profiled an NGO that's rescuing the missing children from Russia, one at a time.)

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