Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) In an ongoing war in Ukraine, the Russian side faces countless accusations of war crimes, such as intentionally killing civilians and raping or intentionally destroying civilian objects. However much less debate is directed to the deportations of Ukrainians to Russia. This topic should get way more attention if merely because a relatively large part of the Ukrainian population is affected. According to data from 18th June, 1.9 mils of Ukrainians were to be deported. There is no doubt that the total number has increased since then.
People from the occupied territories first go through the so-called filter camps, which are essentially modern equivalents of concentration camps. According to the Russian side, the purpose is to look for Nazis. In reality, the camps are primarily about eradicating people’s Ukrainian identity.
Prisoners face beatings, torture, and other forms of humiliation. This is an example of Russians trying to prove, at all costs, that Ukrainians are Nazis. It is enough to be found with a small Ukrainian sign and the hell breaks loose. After people born in Ukraine pass the “filtration,” they can then be resettled thousands of kilometres to the east to lose contact with their original homeland.
Kidnappings of thousands of children
Among the abducted, we can also find children who deserve special attention in our discussion. Those children are not only orphans but also children that have parents. In any case, Russia is effectively committing child kidnappings. For example, according to deleted reports from Krasnodar region’s authorities, 1,000 children from Mariupol were to be resettled to Russia to be adopted by Russian families in Tyumen, Irkutsk, Kemerovo, and the Altai region.
In all cases, we are talking about places thousands of kilometres away, in remote Siberia. Including in cases of children, the goal is self-evident – russification and making it impossible for them to return to the place they came from. Furthermore, the regional government stated in its contribution that more than 300 children are still waiting for a new family and that citizens who decide to adopt them will receive a one-time lump-sum benefit from the state.
However, the cases of Mariupol children represent only the tip of the iceberg. They are a part of a widespread practice where Russian soldiers separate children from their families and then send the orphans to remote areas of Russia. Already at the end of March, Ukraine was drawing attention to this Russian crime for the first time.
At that time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs pointed out the illegal deportation of 2,389 children from the occupied regions in eastern Ukraine of Donetsk and Luhansk. The number of children abducted is increasing every day. As of 18th June 2022, a total number of 307,000 children were smuggled into Russia!
Re-education as in the Hitler Youth
Russification and deep ideological brainwashing of children are a clear priority for the Russians. They do not really pay attention to other things like repairing damaged places. Therefore, the occupation authorities in Mariupol organized a camp for Mariupol children in the village of Melekino.
The camp is definitely not a place for children to come and relax during the holidays and to forget the ever-present reality of war for at least a few days. This is a re-education camp where children are systematically brainwashed.
Children here are instilled with Russian propaganda. They learn how to shoot and hate Ukraine. There are also appearances of photos portraying children in the uniforms of the Junarmija organization, a Russian military organization for the education of children that is often compared to the Hitler Youth. The Russian occupiers, who like to label their enemies as Nazis, are themselves applying Nazi methods.
According to the findings of the human rights organization Eastern Human Rights Group, the children’s parents were also told that their children would be sent to orphanages if they refused to enrol them in occupation schools. This is actually nothing novel. The Russians resorted to similar practices in the past in the occupied Crimea and Donbas.
In the footsteps of Hitler and Stalin
Putin is deporting people in masses to Siberia, similar to what Stalin did to people from the occupied Baltic States in the 1940s. Moreover, before the transport, people from Ukraine were considered inconvenient and detained in facilities strikingly reminiscent of concentration camps. Putin’s Russia is thus following the footsteps of the worst dictators of the last century.
In addition, Russia is still apparently kidnapping children and trying to re-educate them. We should not forget that similar things happened here in the Czech Republic. After the extermination of Lidice and Ležak, the “racially suitable” surviving children were handed over to German families for Germanization. This is another proof that the methods similar to those of the Nazis are not foreign to Russia at all.
Considering the number of people affected by those Russian actions, the deportations of Ukrainians to Siberia and the kidnappings of children would deserve much more attention. It’s regretful that Amnesty International (AI), which was otherwise capable of accusing the defending Ukrainian army of threatening civilians with its war tactics, did not take this matter on its agenda.
In doing so, AI, unfortunately, contributed to Russian propaganda and, understandably, received criticism from many sides. It is also interesting that the well-known human rights organization now mentions Ukraine’s events rather modestly. Its Czech branch currently has only a relatively brief description of some Russian atrocities on its website. Considering the full scale of all possible war crimes committed by Russia, it is pitifully few. Maybe we will see each other someday.