The BBC’s Panorama program has unearthed documents that show that 70-year-old

Sergey Mironov, a former chairman of Russia’s Federation Council, now leader of the “A Just Russia” political party and an ally of Putin, has adopted a two-year-old Ukrainian girl who was removed from an orphanage in then-occupied Kherson in 2022.

According to the BBC the child – who was originally named Margarita Propenko – was abducted by Inna Varlamova who Mironov recently married.

The documents found by the BBC included a birth record, which was created in December 2022, for a 14-month-old girl named “Marina Mironova.”

It named Mironov and Varlamova as her parents and listed her place of birth as Podolsk in the Moscow Region.

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There was, however, no accompanying birth certificate but “Marina's” birthday was listed as Oct. 31 2021 - the same as Margarita’s.

Margarita/Marina, was the youngest of 48 children who went missing from the Kherson Regional Children's Home when Russian forces took control of the city shortly after the full-scale invasion. They were among about 20,000 children who have been taken by Russian forces from occupied areas of Ukraine.

According to witnesses the child had been given up by her birth mother shortly after she was born. In August 2022 Varlamova claiming to be the “the head of children’s affairs from Moscow,” visited the Kherson children’s hospital where Margarita, then 10 months old, was being treated for bronchitis.

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The judge said Gershkovich would be sent to a "strict regime colony," a Russian prison camp notorious for harsh conditions and strict rules after three court sessions in a secretive closed-door trial.

Shortly after the visit, the baby girl was returned to the children’s home where a few days later a group of Russian men, dressed in military uniform, collected her and took her to Moscow. Sources said that several weeks later, the rest of the children in the home, including Margarita’s half-brother, were taken by Russian officials, who were claimed they were taking them to “safe havens” in Crimea.

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Mironov using his X (formerly Twitter) account has denied the reports that the girl he had adopted was Ukrainian, saying they were a “fake concocted by the Ukrainian special services and their Western handlers.”

Russian children’s rights commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova who along with Putin has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) as war criminals responsible for the illegal deportation of Ukrainian children to Russian-controlled territory, has previously claimed that Ukrainian children taken to Russia have only gone into foster care or temporary guardianship.

She said: “We don't have adoptions. This is a very important fact because adoption means that the child becomes fully native. You can change his last name, first name, patronymic [middle name], you can change the place of birth.”

However, she was contradicted by a Russian government spokesperson who told the BBC that it was “incorrect” to say that Russia does not authorize the adoption of children from those areas of Ukraine that have been declared to be new regions of Russia. It seems by implication that they consider Kherson to fall into that category, in spite of its liberation a year ago.

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The BBC spoke to Ukrainian human rights investigator, Victoria Novikova, who said she wants to find all the missing Kherson orphans, She expressed concern that time was against them, as Moscow was trying to erase the children's identity by issuing Russian birth certificates and passports.

After failing to find Margarita’s relatives, Novikova has been made the little girl's legal guardian.

“The world needs to know about Margarita's existence. They wanted to erase her. We need to bring her back,” she said.

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