Since the beginning of the Russian invasion in Ukraine on Feb. 24, thousands of children have gone missing. An increasing amount of evidence indicates that at least some of them were forcibly taken to Russia.

On Sept. 20, Petro Andryushchenko, aid to the mayor of Mariupol, published footage on his Telegram channel of 135 Ukrainian children taken to Moscow on a Russian Ministry of Defense plane.

The children are immediately granted Russian citizenship and plans are for them to be resettled with Russian families in Astrakhan, Voronezh, Kursk, Moscow, Murmansk, Nizhny Novgorod, Omsk, Penza, Rostov, Ryazan, Samara, Chelyabinsk Regions and Moscow. Currently, the children are kept in a camp near Moscow.

The abduction program of Ukrainian children is organized by the Maria Lvova-Belova Children’s Rights Commissioner for the President of the Russian Federation.

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On Sept. 2, Dmytro Lubinets, the Ukrainian Parliament’s Ombudsman for Human Rights, said in an interview with Voice of America, “According to our data, more than 7,000 Ukrainian children were illegally taken to the territory of the Russian Federation. The Russians are doing everything to prevent our children from returning, even simplifying their legislation so that citizens of the Russian Federation can adopt Ukrainian children as easily as possible.”

The Ombudsman called the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia a violation of international law and genocide of the Ukrainian nation. Lubinets noted that the Office of the Ombudsman is working on the return of the children. So far, 51 children have been returned.

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Kidnapping minors violates the UN Convention on the Prevention of the Crime of Genocide and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The kidnapping and misappropriation of children by dictatorships are not new. The military regime in Argentina from 1976-1983 was responsible for the systematic disappearance of some 30,000 political opponents. But the regime also abducted 500 children born while their mothers were imprisoned.

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Through an illegal network of adoptions, these children often ended up in the families of military or police officers involved in the murder of their biological parents. In other cases, children ended up in orphanages or were adopted by families loyal to the military regime.

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