Oleksandr Topchyi17:18, 22.12.22
Orphanage workers have no idea of the whereabouts of the children in their care after they were abducted by Russian soldiers.
Russia kidnaps Ukrainian orphans from the occupied territories of our country. This is one of the most disturbing aspects of this war.
In particular, Sky News found evidence that the Russians took children from two orphanages in Kherson. Journalists also noted the extraordinary bravery of ordinary Ukrainians who tried to prevent the intentions of the Russian invaders.
It is noted that the abduction of children is a gross violation of the rules of warfare. And according to Ukrainian officials, during the withdrawal from the Kherson region, the Russian military kidnapped 97 orphans.
According to the director of the orphanage in the village of Stepanivka near Kherson, Volodymyr Sahaydak, he saw what the Russians did to the orphans in Donbas since the beginning of the war in 2014, so he had to take measures to protect his children.
“We saw how Russian propagandists said that it was necessary to take orphaned children, send them to military schools, teach them and let them fight for Russia. It was the most terrible thing, so we began to hide the children, because we understood that they would be taken away,” – Sagaidak said.
Exclusive CCTV footage obtained by Sky News from the orphanage’s cameras captured the terrifying moment the Russians came looking for the children. The footage shows the Russian occupiers walking through the building of the orphanage.
“They confiscated all the children’s documents because they couldn’t understand where the children were, so they took the documents, they took the computers, they took the video surveillance system, because they wanted to know where the children went,” Sagaidak said.
The children from this orphanage, who were 52, agreed to be hidden by the residents of the village, who accepted three or four of them per family. Although there was a risk that the collaborators would “hand over” them to the Russians and these families would be arrested or shot.
The Russians never found the orphans, but they sent 15 more children from other occupied territories of Ukraine to this orphanage. Sky News has seen videos showing how staff at the orphanage take them in and treat them like their own. When Russian troops finally withdrew from the region, they came and took all 15 children with them. The employees of the orphanage could not do anything.
“They were put in these military vehicles and taken away by soldiers with machine guns, so, of course, the children were scared and did not know where they were being taken,” said teacher Oksana.
They were not the only ones. Sky News also investigated claims that the Russians took much younger children, aged three to five, from another orphanage in the center of Kherson.
Natalya Kadyrova lives next to the orphanage. She also described the moment when the Russian military came to kidnap children.
“When the children were taken out, a Russian armored personnel carrier and soldiers stood around the perimeter so that no one would film. Of course, I worry about them, they are small children. They are simply abandoned children. We do not know where they are, what happened to them and where they were taken.” Kadyrova said.
The Ukrainian Prosecutor’s Office states that the Russians took 48 orphans aged 3-5 from this orphanage. Criminal proceedings have been opened for this fact. In general, according to the Ukrainian government, Russia abducted and deported 13 thousand children during the war.
Kidnapping of children from the occupied territories by Russian troops
The Russians in the occupied Ukrainian territories began to forcibly remove children to the territory of the Russian Federation. The fact that on May 30 Russian President Vladimir Putin completely legalized the abduction of children by signing a decree on a simplified procedure for the admission of orphans from Ukraine to Russian citizenship made the process easier for the invaders. The further fate of many children abducted in this way remains unknown.
Vice President of the European Commission, High Representative of the EU for Foreign and Security Policy Josep Borrell said that the kidnapping of Ukrainian children by the Russian military is another war crime.
In October, the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Andriy Yermak, told about one of the facts of such a war crime by the Russians. According to him, the Russian occupiers took 12 children with disabilities from the Oleshkiv children’s boarding school in the Kherson region to Crimea.