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How Russia Destroys Ukrainian Childhood: Researchers Speak About War Crimes Against Children

Russia kills and maims Ukrainian children every day; destroys hospitals and schools, depriving children of the right to healthcare and education; forcibly displaces them to its territory, and often does not allow them to leave for Ukraine-controlled territories. Russia is also trying to destroy the Ukrainian identity of children living under occupation or displaced children and conducts mass campaigns to militarise minors. The Ukrainian prosecutor’s office has already opened more than 1,000 criminal proceedings over crimes against children.

Human rights activists spoke about these crimes and their legal qualifications during a press conference on International Children’s Day.

“UN Security Council Resolution 1261 identifies six serious violations against children during armed conflict: 1) the recruitment and use of children; 2) killing and maiming of children; 3) rape and other forms of sexual violence against children; 4) attacks on schools, hospitals and related persons associated with them; 5) abduction of children; 6) denial of access to humanitarian aid,” said Inna Zavorotko, a postgraduate student of the National University of “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy,” an expert at the Fund for Fundamental Research Support. “Russia now cynically commits all these violations against Ukrainian children. All these violations are all international crimes that have no statute of limitations and must be classified as genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity depending on the circumstances.”

According to UNICEF data, 4.8 million children have already fled their homes due to the war. Of these, about 2 million children have moved abroad, and 2.8 million are internally displaced persons. More than 232,000 children have been forcibly displaced to Russia.

“Russia has committed the gravest crime against humanity – it has deprived all Ukrainian children of their childhood. More than 250 children have been killed during the full-scale aggression, and more than 446 have suffered injuries of varying severity. Millions have been forced to flee their homes, and hundreds of thousands have been forcibly displaced to Russia. For the three months of the war, 180 educational institutions were completely destroyed and 1,909 institutions were damaged. Children are virtually deprived of the right to development and the future. Tens of thousands live under occupation, and we have limited information about their well-being,” said Andriy Chernousov, a leading expert at the Kharkiv Institute for Social Research (KhISR).

In addition, according to the report by KhISR and the Voices of Children Charitable Foundation on Russia’s crimes against children committed over the past month of the war, Russia deliberately creates humanitarian crises in the occupied territories.

“Newborns under six months have almost nothing to eat. There are no infant formulae, mothers do not have breast milk because of stress. Infant food has a very short shelf-life; volunteers should bring it constantly. But humanitarian aid delivery is blocked, trucks are simply ordered to make a U-turn at Russian checkpoints,” the researchers note in the report.

In the occupied territories, children are used in the filming of propaganda stories. Thus, in the occupied town of Melitopol, children were forced to wear St. George’s ribbons and recite poems about the war. In Mariupol, to create a needed “appearance,” the Russian occupiers opened a “children’s centre” on the premises with no power or water supply, where food is cooked on the fire in the yard. In the centre, the children will be taught according to a Russian-language textbook prepared in the self-proclaimed pseudo-state formation in certain areas of the Donetsk region.

Yulia Usenko, Head of the Department for the Protection of Children’s Rights and Counteraction to Violence at the Prosecutor General’s Office, noted that the prosecutor’s office has been recording crimes against children separately since the first days of the war.

“We have already opened 1,042 criminal proceedings over crimes against children. Of these, 551 are physical war crimes against children, i.e., murders, injuries, sexual violence, abduction. And 491 cases concern armed attacks and the destruction of civilian children’s infrastructure. Eleven notices of charges have been served to Russian criminals,” Usenko reported.

Natalia Tolub

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