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Watch the trailer for the Kyiv Independent's upcoming documentary 'Uprooted'

by The Kyiv Independent news desk July 15, 2023 7:21 PM 2 min read
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The Kyiv Independent presents “Uprooted” — an investigative documentary into the forced deportation of Ukrainian children from Russian-occupied Mariupol.

A few months ago, the Kyiv Independent, Ukraine's prominent English-language media outlet, launched a War Crimes Unit to produce investigative documentaries about Russian war crimes in Ukraine.

Now the team is ready to release their first film, “Uprooted.”

“Uprooted” will premiere on the Kyiv Independent’s YouTube channel on July 18. The film is in English.

A special screening will be held on July 18 at the Zhovten Cinema in Kyiv, followed by a discussion with the journalists behind it.

The documentary, authored by journalist Olesia Bida and directed by Vitalii Havura, uncovers the inner workings of the forced deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia and the occupied territories of Ukraine.

The film tells the story of a group of children known as “Group 31” who were taken to Russia from now-occupied Mariupol in May of last year and have not yet been able to return. Among them is Pylyp Holovnya, who was taken into the family of Maria Lvova-Belova, the presidential commissioner for children’s rights in Russia.

Families have been risking their lives to bring their children back. Some of the children want to return to Ukraine but are unable to do so.

"Ivan simply burst into tears over the phone and begged, 'Anton Viktorovich, I am begging you, take us from here.' Of course, after hearing those words, I had to go. I understood the risk," said Anton Bilay, the guardian of two boys from Mariupol, who risked traveling deep into occupied territories to recover his wards after they had been taken by Russians.

According to official data, since Feb. 24, 2022, around 20,000 children have been kidnapped by Russia. Human rights activists believe the actual number could be much higher.

"At the time of the full-scale invasion, there were almost 60,000 children in Mariupol. Some parents managed to take their children to a safe place, some remained living under occupation, and some of these children were deported to Russia. Unfortunately, we cannot determine the exact number. When we began working on this investigation, I couldn't even imagine the scale of this crime," said Yevheniia Motorevska, head of the Kyiv Independent’s War Crimes Unit.

As of July 10, 2023, according to Ukrainian authorities, only 383 children have been brought back.

"The Russians like to claim that they are actually saving Ukrainian children rather than deporting them. This is not true. They have established and finely tuned the system of deporting children to Russia. Maria Lvova-Belova is not the only one behind this; doctors, social service workers, and even 'ordinary Russians' who take Ukrainian children into their families are participating in this war crime," said the film's author, journalist Olesia Bida.

The film was created with the financial support of the Microsoft Democracy Forward Program.

Information partners of the project include: NGO "SOS Children's Villages," NGO "Ukrainian Network for Children's Rights," Ukrainian Helsinki Union for Human Rights, Coalition "Ukraine: Five AM," Regional Center for Human Rights, NGO "PR Army," NGO "Razom for Ukraine," Vitsche Berlin, United24 Media, European Resilience Initiative Center, NGO "YurFem," NGO "Docudays.”

For accreditation for the premiere screening, interviews with the authors of the film, or any additional information, please contact the project's promotion manager, Anastasia Holovnenko, at [email protected].

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