In 2022, 27,800 crimes against children during armed conflicts were recorded, representing the highest number ever confirmed by the UN.

The main perpetrators were career military personnel of national armies.

Russia has gone down in history as the country whose military is responsible for a significant percentage of these horrific statistics. The UN has put Russia on the “list of shame” for killing and maiming Ukrainian children.

For the first time, Ukraine was included in the list of the top 7 countries with the “largest number of gross violations” against children.

Here is the data on officially recorded crimes committed by Russia against Ukrainian children:

Source: Dmytro Lubinets, Human Rights Commissioner of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Facebook

Crimes committed by the Russian army against Ukrainian children

The UN Security Council identifies six major violations against children in armed conflict. The Russian military in Ukraine commits all of them including abductions, recruitment, killings, rapes, attacks, and denial of access to humanitarian aid. The facts of the offenses have been documented by Ukrainian and international human rights organizations.

Abduction of children and their illegal deportation to the Russian Federation 

Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, Russia has been mass deporting Ukrainian children to its territory, as well as to Belarus. According to the official data of Ukrainian government agencies alone, the number of deported children is 19,744, while the actual number may be several times higher.

On March 7, 2023, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Putin and Russian Children’s Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova, who are suspected of illegal deportation and transfer of children from Ukraine.

The decision was unprecedented. In fact, from now on, if Putin and Belova appear on the territory of a country that is a party to the ICC and has ratified the Rome Statute, they will be immediately arrested and brought to trial.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zakharova said that the ICC arrest warrant for Putin “will not have any significance for Russia” because the country is not a party to the Rome Statute and is not obliged to comply with ICC decisions.

For his part, ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan said that the arrest warrant for Putin and Lvova-Belova issued by the International Criminal Court has no statute of limitations.

Recruitment and use of children

Deportation is accompanied by the targeted destruction of the Ukrainian identity of minors. In particular, it involves the massive “re-education” of children abducted from Ukraine in special “camps” in Russia and the Russian-occupied Ukrainian Crimean peninsula, summarizes the study by the Humanitarian Research Lab at Yale School of Public Health

The occupiers are actively recruiting children to join the ranks of Russian military youth organizations, the most famous of which is the “Yunarmy” (Young Army). This organization operates under the Russian Ministry of Defense and is known for radical propaganda work among young people (aged eight and older); orphans are also accepted.

According to 2021 data, 29,000 children joined the ranks of the Yunarmy in the occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea alone, which is one in ten schoolchildren on the peninsula.

Militarization is designed to form a child’s perception of service in the Russian armed forces as a civic duty, with further motivation to join the ranks. The cult of war and victory is formed from the kindergarten age.

Children are indoctrinated with Russian narratives and are taught to have a hostile attitude towards Ukraine and everything Ukrainian. And this is not a matter of single cases, but rather a systematically implemented strategic objective.

Killing and maiming 

Almost half a thousand Ukrainian children have been killed in Russia’s war in Ukraine. Most of these are deaths caused by explosive weapons, including those with a wide area of impact: missiles, artillery shelling, and bombing. Often, these are premeditated killings, when the Russian military target evacuation convoys, civilian cars, or kill individual children on the streets of occupied cities.

Children are also killed and injured as a result of large-scale mining of the territories with a wide variety of explosive devices, including those that are hardly visible.

Rape and other forms of sexual violence 

Rape is one of the most difficult crimes to investigate and verify, especially when it comes to children in the war zone. Currently, 13 cases of sexual violence against children aged between 4 to 17 (12 girls and 1 boy) by the Russian military are being investigated in Ukraine.

“Some of the victims are still under occupation. Some do not turn to law enforcement because of shame, guilt, and post-traumatic disorders. Often people do not even realize that they have suffered from sexual violence. After all, such crimes during the war include not only rape, but also forced undress, for example, during the so-called filtration or at checkpoints, harassment and threats of rape, forcing to watch violence against other people, and generally any actions of a sexual nature,” says Valeriia Kolomiiets, Deputy Minister of Justice of Ukraine.

Attacks on schools, hospitals and other places at which children are staying

Since the first day of the full-scale war, the Russian army has continued to target Ukraine’s medical infrastructure, including hospitals, outpatient clinics, maternity hospitals, and polyclinics. Since the full-scale invasion, Russian missiles have destroyed 184 hospitals and damaged more than 1,376 medical infrastructure facilities. The enemy is also systematically destroying educational establishments: 3,450 institutions have been partially destroyed, 331 of them completely.

In the first months of the full-scale invasion, Ukrainians trapped in cities tried to save their children from shelling by creating large and visible signs saying “Children”. Nevertheless, convoys with such signs came under fire from the Russian military with particular cruelty, as did the Mariupol theater marked with “Children,” where, according to various sources, 300 to 600 citizens with children were killed.

Denial of access to humanitarian aid

Among the war crimes of the Russian Federation against Ukrainian children recorded by human rights activists is the deliberate creation of a humanitarian crisis in the temporarily occupied territories. “Newborns under six months of age had virtually nothing to eat. There were no formulae, and women in labor lost milk due to stress. Baby food has a very short shelf life, so volunteers need to supply it constantly. But its supply was blocked, the trucks were simply turned back at Russian checkpoints,” the report by the Kharkiv Institute for Social Research and the Children’s Voices Charitable Foundation says.

During his report to the UN, US Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis drew attention to the deliberate nature of crimes against children committed by Russia in Ukraine: “As Russia’s war continues, Russian military forces and officials have committed crimes against humanity – including crimes against children – by choice. Russian troops have executed Ukrainian men, women and children,” he said. “These actions are not random or spontaneous – they are part of a widespread and systematic attack on the civilian population of Ukraine.

Despite international law, Russian forces continue to systematically commit crimes against humanity on the territory of Ukraine, deliberately targeting places where children are obviously present, including schools, hospitals, and residential buildings.

This harsh reality is faced by millions of Ukrainian parents who wake up every day not knowing how to provide their children with the most basic necessities: the ability to live a day without the threat of being killed by a Russian missile, a soldier, or an explosive left in a child’s toy by the invaders.

The value of human life is at the core of international humanitarian law and the modern world order. The principle that guarantees everyone, regardless of nationality, place of residence or other characteristics, the right to life is basic.

However, Russia regularly undermines these foundations, turning war crimes into a tool to achieve its own goals, deliberately taking the lives of Ukrainian children.

The only way to stop Russia is for democratic countries to join forces to increase sanctions pressure on Russia and to provide Ukraine with more weapons and other means to strengthen its ability to protect its citizens.

After all, Ukrainian children deserve a safe, European life on a par with German, French and other children.

Source: The Gaze