How MoscowGrabs Ukranian's Kids and Makes Them Russians

AP NEWS - SARAH EL DEEB, ANASTASIIA SHVETS and ELIZAVETA TILNA - OCT 13, 2022


Olga Lopatkina paced around her basement in circles like a trapped animal. For more than a week, the Ukrainian mother had heard nothing from her six adopted children stranded in Mariupol, and she was going out of her mind with worry.


The kids had spent their vacation at a resort in the port city, as usual. But this time war with Russia had broken out, and her little ones — always terrified of the dark — were abandoned in a besieged city with no light and no hope. All they had now was her oldest son, Timofey, who was still himself just 17.



The questions looped endlessly in her head: Should she try to rescue the children herself — and risk being killed, making them orphans yet again? Or should she campaign to get them out from afar — and risk them being killed or falling into the hands of the Russians?


She had no idea her dilemma would lead her straight into a battle against Russia, with the highest stakes of her life.


Russia’s open effort to adopt Ukrainian children and bring them up as Russian is already well underway, in one of the most explosive issues of the war, an Associated Press investigation shows.


Thousands of children have been found in the basements of war-torn cities like Mariupol and at orphanages in the Russian-backed separatist territories of Donbas. They include those whose parents were killed by Russian shelling as well as others in institutions or with foster families, known as “children of the state.”


Russia claims that these children don’t have parents or guardians to look after them, or that they can’t be reached. But the AP found that officials have deported Ukrainian children to Russia or Russian-held territories without consent, lied to them that they weren’t wanted by their parents, used them for propaganda, and given them Russian families and citizenship.


The investigation is the most extensive to date on the grab of Ukrainian children, and the first to follow the process all the way to those already growing up in Russia. The AP drew from dozens of interviews with parents, children and officials in both Ukraine and Russia; emails and letters; Russian documents and Russian state media.


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