Skip to content
Edit post

Guardian: Russia 're-educates' deported Ukrainian children

by Abbey Fenbert February 5, 2024 5:48 AM 3 min read
01 February 2024, Latvia, Riga: First Lady Olena Zelenska urges the international community to help return forcibly deported Ukrainian children at the "Russia's War on Children" conference in Riga, Latvia on Feb. 1, 2024. (Alexander Welscher/picture alliance via Getty Images)
This audio is created with AI assistance

Support independent journalism in Ukraine. Join us in this fight.

Become a member Support us just once

Ukrainian children who have been forcibly deported to Russia are subject to systemic re-education efforts by Russian authorities, according to a report published in the Guardian on Feb. 4.

Since February 2022, nearly 20,000 Ukrainian children have been identified as abducted from Russian-occupied territories and sent to other Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine or to Russia itself, according to a Ukrainian national database.

Ukraine has only been able to return about 400 of these children from Russia.

Veronika Vlasenko, a Ukrainian child who spent 14 months in the Russian school system after the full-scale invasion, said her teachers and fellow students told her she would never be allowed to return home.

“Every day they said to me that I would be staying here for ever and would never leave Russia,” she said.

“They told me that Ukraine doesn’t exist, that it never existed, that we’re all Russians … At times the other kids would beat me for being pro-Ukrainian.”

Vlasenko was placed in a children's home in Lipetsk, Russia after she and her aunt crossed the border into Russia from Kharkiv Oblast to avoid clashes with the military in the early days of the invasion. She was eventually able to return to her family when her grandmother traveled to Russia via Poland and the Baltic countries to bring her home.

Abducting the future: How Ukrainian parents fight to rescue their children from Russia
One thought helped Yevhen Mezhevyi overcome the ordeal of Russian captivity – the thought of his three young children. Single father Mezhevyi, 40, was captured by Russian troops at a checkpoint when he and his children were fleeing their war-torn hometown of Mariupol last spring. For 45 days, Mezh…

A "Russia's War on Children" conference was held in Riga on Feb. 1 to raise international awareness of the mass child deportations. First Lady Olena Zelenska traveled to Latvia to participate.

"Russia is telling (the Ukrainian children) they are not wanted, that nobody is looking for them, changing their names and trying to issue them Russian passports," Zelenska said.

Zelenska urged Ukraine's allies and neutral countries who may hold more influence in Moscow to help reunited Ukrainian children with their families.

Russian officials have claimed that Ukrainian children are able to return to Ukraine if a parent or guardian travels to Russia to retrieve them. In a few cases, including Vlasenko's, this has worked, but not every child has a relative able to make the arduous and risky trip.

Some children are also adopted by Russian families before their parents can reach them.

“Russia is trying to destroy the Ukrainian nation, not only physically, but by severing familial bonds and erasing the Ukrainian identity of the deported children,” said Andrii Kostin, Ukraine's prosecutor general.

Kostin said that Russia's child abductions constituted the largest deportation of European children since World War II.

“Russia is actively erasing their Ukrainian identity and inflicting unbelievable emotional and psychological damage,” said Latvian President Edgars Rinkevics during the conference.

“What makes it even worse is that Russia proudly exhibits its actions."

In March 2023, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova, for allegedly overseeing the forced deportations of Ukrainian children to Russia.

Vlasenko said the trauma of being detained in Russia caused her to lose weight, and her hair started falling out.

“It was so hard to be alone in this environment, with everyone telling me terrible things about Ukraine,” she said.

Before you skip this banner, we want to tell you something…

The Kyiv Independent doesn’t depend on a wealthy owner or an oligarch — in 2023, 80% of our revenue was from reader contributions . It’s thanks to them that we don’t have to rely on a single owner.

Support us now and help maintain our independent model and keep our articles free for everyone. Your contributions allow us to cover journalists’ salaries, report from the front lines, and fund projects like our War Crimes Investigations Unit.

visa masterCard americanExpress

News Feed

1:35 AM

CNN: Allies debating what commitment to give Ukraine on NATO membership.

The United States and allies are debating what to commit to Ukraine's NATO membership at the upcoming 75th anniversary summit in Washington, CNN reported on June 19. U.S. officials are reportedly facing criticism from European countries for not willing to go as far as countries closer to Russia would prefer.
Ukraine Daily
News from Ukraine in your inbox
Ukraine news
Please, enter correct email address
12:22 AM  (Updated: )

Source: Investigators preparing to charge anti-corruption activist Shabunin.

Shabunin, who joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine as a volunteer at the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion in 2022 and has served since then, denied the accusations and said the cases were fabricated. He believes the cases to be a political vendetta against him by the President's Office, including President Volodymyr Zelensky's deputy chief of staff Oleh Tatarov.
10:14 PM

Ukraine restores ferry service with Georgia.

The sea voyage from the city of Chernomorsk in Ukraine's Odesa Oblast to Batumi in Georgia will be the first between the countries since the beginning of the full-scale invasion.
8:15 PM

EU, Ukraine finalize text of security deal.

The EU is expected to join 16 countries, including the U.S., Japan, U.K., Germany, and France, that have signed similar bilateral treaties to help Kyiv repel Russia's aggression.

Editors' Picks

Enter your email to subscribe
Please, enter correct email address
* indicates required
* indicates required
* indicates required
* indicates required
* indicates required


* indicates required
* indicates required


* indicates required
* indicates required


* indicates required
Successfuly subscribed
Thank you for signing up for this newsletter. We’ve sent you a confirmation email.