Some of Russian authorities’ actions, they believe, may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Researchers said the primary goal of the camps is “political re-education,” exposing children to “Russia-centric academic, cultural, patriotic” information. Two camps in Crimea and Chechnya appear to subject children to military education, teaching them about firearms and military vehicles.
Nathaniel Raymond, a researcher at the Yale School of Public Health’s Humanitarian Research Lab told reporters that Russia had failed to take steps required under the Geneva Conventions, including the creation of a transparent registration system for children separated from their families in wartime; the transfer of children to a neutral nation; and steps to ensure they retain their national and ethnic identities.
“Consider this report a gigantic Amber Alert that we are issuing on Ukraine’s children,” he said, referring to the U.S. system for publicizing news about missing or endangered children. “All levels of Russia’s government are involved.”
The report adds to the growing picture of alleged Russian crimes during President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which began nearly a year ago. The United States remains the largest backer of the Ukrainian government’s attempt to expel Russian forces and authorities from vast areas of Ukraine, some of which have been under direct Kremlin control since 2014.
The report, which researchers said reflects six months of documentation from an array of sources including satellite imagery and Russian state media, alleges that most Ukrainian children who have been in Russian custody came from Russian-occupied areas including Donetsk and Luhansk, while a minority were taken from Kharkiv, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia before those areas were retaken by Ukrainian forces.
The report also describes what it calls a “consent crisis.” While some of the children’s parents gave their consent for them to go to summer camp in Russia and they subsequently returned, other children’s return was delayed temporarily or indefinitely. In other cases, the researchers said, some Ukrainian parents may have been coerced by pro-Russian authorities into permitting their children to be taken to Russia.
In many instances it has been difficult for parents to obtain information about their children, who range in age from four months to 17 years old, the report said.
The researchers said there had no evidence that children exposed to military education at Russian camps had been sent into combat. Some of the facilities appear to date to the Soviet Union’s system of youth camps.
Fellow Yale researcher Caitlin Howarth said that while some children have been returned to their families in Ukraine, the harm they experienced may linger much longer.
“That level of so-called “re-education” is a very clear and systematic attempt to erase the history and culture and, in very clear documented cases, even the historical importance and language of Ukraine,” she said.
The report also identifies Russian officials who the authors allege are responsible for the practices, including Maria Lvova-Belova, Putin’s commissioner for children’s rights, and several regional governors.
Colleen Crenwelge,with the State Department’s conflict and stabilization bureau, said the Biden administration was pursuing a number of avenues for holding Russian officials accountable for actions in Ukraine but provided no details about how the alleged system for re-educating children would fit into that.
*This story has not been edited by The Infallible staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.