Evidence that children had been tortured by Russian forces was found “for the first time” in Kherson, Dmytro Lubinets, Human Rights Commissioner for Ukraine’s Parliament, announced at a press briefing on Wednesday, Dec. 14.
“We saw the rock bottom in Kherson,” he said. “In one of the torture chambers, we discovered a separate cell where children were kept.
“I thought that the bottom could not be broken after Bucha, Irpin… but we really reached the bottom in Kherson,” he added.
According to local testimony revealed by Lubinets, detained children were given minimal water and almost no food, whilst being subjected to psychological torture and abuse by Russian interrogators.
The children from the recently liberated southern Ukrainian city were allegedly held in the cell and told that their parents had abandoned them. Some also claim they were forced to clean up blood from an adjacent torture room used for detained Ukrainian adults. British newspaper the Daily Express reports that Russian forces in Kherson had allegedly nicknamed the room the “children’s cell.”
Speaking at a hearing held by the U.S. Helsinki Commission on Wednesday, Dr. James S. Gordon, founder of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine, said that an estimated 60 percent of Ukrainian children have been forced to flee their homes during Russia’s ongoing brutal invasion.
“Every child in Ukraine and all Ukrainian children who have left, are experiencing some level of distress,” he added.
Meanwhile, Mykola Kuleba, the commissioner for children’s rights in the Ukrainian President’s office and co-founder of the Alliance for Ukraine Without Orphans, told the Commission that Russia has deported 13,124 children during the war, according to a Ukrainian government portal. He also noted that Russia state media channels had reported the figure to be far higher, at 712,000.
“The occupiers are kidnapping Ukrainian children to the Russian Federation,” he said. “To encourage ordinary Russians to adopt forcibly removed children they offer a one-time payment of maternity capital and state aide,” Kuleba said, adding adoptive parents were paid $300 per year for each child, and about $2,000 a year for children with disabilities.
“The Russian authorities made a conscious decision to resettle deported children into the territories thousands of kilometers away from Ukraine,” he added.
Kuleba warned that Russian adopters are being allowed to “legally” change an adopted Ukrainian child’s name and date of birth, which he said would make it “very difficult for us to personally find and identify our children in the future.”
According to Ukrainian government figures, an estimated 443 children have been killed so far in the war, and more than 855 injured.
Additionally, widespread acts of rape and torture committed by Russian soldiers have been reported across Ukraine.
In one horrific case alone, the body of a seven-year-old girl exhumed from a mass grave in Bucha was discovered to have seven different traces of sperm believed to belong to different Russian soldiers, Natalia Nestor, deputy director of Kyiv Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Expertise told British Newspaper the Daily Express earlier this week.
Amid ongoing calls for Russia to be punished for its human rights abuses, yesterday, Britain’s Attorney General, Victoria Prentis, confirmed that the U.K. is helping to train Ukrainian judges on how to try Russian soldiers suspected of committing war crimes in Ukraine, with criminals able to be prosecuted at “an unprecedented scale.”
With the first batch of Ukrainian judges already having attended training sessions at a secret location, more sessions are due to take place in the coming months.
Speaking to Sky News, Prentis confirmed that £2.5 million has so far been invested into the scheme, and assured that the intensive training would allow the prosecution of Russian war criminals to be carried out more efficiently while the war continues.
“They [Ukrainian judges] are prosecuting war crimes in real time,” Prentis said. “This is a live and very brutal conflict. Ukraine is managing with all the difficulties that we know are going on in the country at the moment, with things like power and organizing courts to try war crimes.”
Prentis also stressed the importance of British efforts. “This is very important, obviously because justice is important, but also because I hope that those Russian soldiers and officers who are watching the Ukrainian prosecutions at the moment will realize that they must act in accordance with international law.”
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