Putin visits Ukraine for meetings in Kherson, Luhansk
Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Ukraine in video released Tuesday by the Kremlin. (Russian Pool via APTN)
A top official on Thursday accused Russia of intensifying its efforts to force children in occupied areas of Ukraine to receive “military patriotic education” by sending them to camps in Crimea in a move to enhance its propaganda campaign.
Moscow has been repeatedly accused of targeting children in its war against Ukraine by illegally deporting them to Russia, escalating fostering and adoption programs, and forcing children to attend “re-education” camps in occupied areas – prompting the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant last month for President Vladimir Putin and Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights to the U.N. Maria Lvova-Belova.
But on Thursday, Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar accused Russia of further “intensifying” its efforts to plant “aggressive Russian ideology” in the minds of Ukrainian children.
People light candles in Schuman Roundabout, the heart of the EU district in Brussels, Belgium, on Feb. 24, 2023, in protest of Russia’s treatment of Ukrainian children. (Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)
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“A powerful propaganda campaign has been launched,” she said in a Telegram post Thursday, adding that Russia was sending “schoolchildren from the temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories to specially equipped camps in the temporarily occupied Crimea.”
“In these camps, it is envisaged that children will live in spartan conditions and carry out with them intensive activities of the so-called ‘military-patriotic education’ under the leadership of servicemen of the armed forces of the Russian Federation,” Malyar added.
The deputy defense minister said parents who do not “volunteer” to send their children to these military education camps in Crimea are threatened by occupying Russian administrative officials, and claimed that “soon all schoolchildren will be sent to these camps by force.”
According to a report released in February by the Yale Humanitarian Research Lab with the support of the State Department, some 6,000 Ukrainian children were found to have been forced to attend these “re-education camps” following Russia’s February 2022 invasion.
A bus arrives in Kyiv, delivering more than a dozen children from Russian-held territory on March 22, 2023. More than 16,000 Ukrainian children have been deported to Russia since the Feb. 24, 2022 invasion, according to Kyiv. (Sergei Chuzavkov/AFP via Getty Images)
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At least 43 of these facilities were found in Russia and Crimea – which Russia has occupied since 2014.
The Yale team found that they have largely served as “re-education” camps in an effort to “ostensibly make children more pro-Russia in their personal and political views.”
The report showed the camps stretch across Russia with one located as far east as the Magadan oblast along Russia’s eastern border with the Pacific Ocean – some 3,900 miles from Ukraine and roughly “three times closer to the United States than it is to the border of Ukraine.”
Some children were held at these camps for months while others attended the “re-education” courses for several weeks.
Denys Zaporozhchenko meets his children Nikita, Yana and Dayana after they and other children arrive in Kyiv from Russian-held territory on March 22, 2023. (Sergei Chuzavkov/AFP via Getty Images)
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The children at these camps include Ukrainian orphans, those separated from their parents or guardians at the onslaught of the invasion, as well as children who were given parental “consent” to attend the camps.
Roughly 10% of the children who were supposed to return to their parents from at least two of the camps have been “suspended indefinitely” and apparently held at the camps.
Caitlin McFall is a Reporter at Fox News Digital covering Politics, U.S. and World news.