parents have described the horrifying ordeal to rescue their children from Russian camps after Vladimir Putin’s forces occupied southern regions north of the Crimean peninsula. Tatiana Vlaiko, 36, recounted having to travel for weeks to bring her 11-year-old daughter Lilya back to Kherson, from where she had been taken on the pretence of a school summer camp. It is part of what a Yale University report last month said was a systematic campaign “co-ordinated by federal government” to “re-educate” young Ukrainians.

Ms Vlaiko’s young daughter left for a school trip last September having told her mother that it would be a two-week summer camp.

Living in the occupied city of Kherson, which has since been liberated, Ms Vlaiko told the Sunday Times she was “afraid” at the prospect of her daughter leaving but her child was adamant that she wanted to go.

“I was afraid. It’s a war and I told her it might not be so easy to get you back. But her friends were going and she really wanted to go.”

After a few weeks of infrequent contact, during which her daughter had told her about “seeing dolphins and concerts”, she was then informed that her child had been relocated.

“I called her teacher, asking what is happening, will you bring them back?” she said. “But she stopped answering.”

After that phone call, Ms Vlaiko spent months trying to bring her daughter back, eventually having to travel for weeks around the frontlines in Ukraine to pick up her child.

Her story is one of thousands, according to Ukrainian officials, with more than 16,000 children having been taken to Russia under questionable circumstances.

The mass movement of Ukrainian children from the occupied territories into Russia is part of Putin’s Russification plan to undermine the existence of Ukraine as its own sovereign state.

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