Russia has placed thousands of Ukrainian children in camps where they’re subjected to Russian propaganda and forcible adoption by Russian families, with some even undergoing military training, a U.S. government-backed report from Yale University found.
The campaign violates the Geneva Conventions and could constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity and possibly genocide, researchers from the Yale School of Public Health’s Humanitarian Research Lab said. It has involved children from 4 months old to 17 years.
The research was supported by the State Department’s bureau of conflict stabilization operations.
While at least 6,000 children could be confirmed to have participated in the camps, the researchers “think the number is probably significantly higher,” Nathaniel Raymond, a Yale researcher who worked on the report, told reporters in a phone briefing on Tuesday. “The primary purpose of the camps appears to be political reeducation.”
In many of the cases, the report found, children were sent to the camps from occupied parts of Ukraine including Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk. At two military-style camps in Chechnya and Russian-occupied Crimea children were taught how to “handle military equipment, drive trucks, and study firearms,” the researchers said.
Some Ukrainian orphans were eventually adopted or placed with Russian foster families, but the report said that not all of these children were technically orphans — with some simply coming from families that were “in difficult circumstances.”
Russia has portrayed its adoption program as humanitarian aid to abandoned children.
The researchers said many parents gave consent under duress for their children to be taken away, with some wanting to get their loved ones out of a war zone or wanting them to be fed properly. Some children were returned to their parents, but others couldn’t communicate with their parents or were blocked from going home.
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