Editor's Note: The story is based on the documentary Uprooted, published by the Kyiv Independent's War Crimes Investigation Unit.
Russia is systematically deporting Ukrainian children from the occupied part of Ukraine against their will – which constitutes genocide according to one of the five definitions given in the United Nations' Genocide Convention.
Once in Russia, Ukrainian children are held incommunicado, brainwashed with pro-Russian propaganda, and adopted by Russian families – even though they have living relatives in Ukraine who are their legal guardians.
Nobody knows for sure how large this “stolen generation” of Ukrainian children is. The Ukrainian authorities have identified almost 20,000 children who have been abducted by Russia since the start of its full-scale invasion and war, but human rights workers believe the true number is far, far higher.
As of early 2023, the highest number of deported children was from Donetsk Oblast.
On March 17, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia's commissioner on child rights, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, on suspicion of their involvement in organizing the abduction of Ukrainian children.
Investigating these abductions, the Kyiv Independent has spoken to more than 40 people and has discovered that the process of deportation of children from the city of Mariupol in the Russian-occupied part of Donetsk Oblast involved Russian-placed employees of social services, medical facilities, and children's social centers from the parts of the oblast initially invaded by Russia in 2014.
Read more: kyivindependent.com