Moscow sends hundreds of Ukrainians to camps for first time since Putin and his ombudswoman were issued international arrest warrants
Hundreds of Ukrainian children have been sent to mainland Russia for “patriotic training” as Moscow appears to have resumed its programme of mass indoctrination.
Ukraine’s Centre for National Resistance, a group that collects intelligence from occupied areas for the Ukrainian military, said more than 400 children had been sent to summer camps in Russia in recent weeks.
It is the first time Moscow has sent Ukrainian children to recreation camps in Russia since Vladimir Putin and his ombudswoman Maria Lvova-Belova were issued an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court (ICC) this spring over the forcible removal of Ukrainian children.
At least 200 children were reportedly moved from the town of Dovzhansk, Luhansk region, to the Russian Black Sea coast resort of Anapa.
Another 150 children were sent from Kherson’s Kakhovka and Genichesk district while a further 50 were sent from occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia to another unnamed location on the Russian coast of the Black Sea.
‘Erasing the identity of an entire generation’
On Thursday, the Centre for National Resistance accused Russian officials of trying to brainwash the children at the camps by inviting Russian pop bands and holding “patriotic lessons” in a bid to win their allegiances.
The group described the efforts as a “policy of erasing the identity of an entire generation of Ukrainians”.
The office of Ms Lvova-Belova, who is wanted for the illegal transfer of Ukrainian children by the ICC, has not responded to The Telegraph’s request for comment.
In a statement last week, she rejected the accusations of “kidnapping” and claimed that Russian officials had been helping Ukrainian parents to reunite with their children at the summer camps.
According to Ms Lvova-Belova, as of early August, just three Ukrainian children remained at the camps “as their parents decided” they should.
In June, Ukrainian prosecutors charged a Russian politician and two suspected Ukrainian collaborators with war crimes over the alleged deportation of dozens of orphans from the formerly occupied city of Kherson, some of them as young as one, in the first such criminal case.
Meanwhile, Russia’s interior ministry has boasted about turning an overwhelming majority of residents in the Luhansk region – large parts of which have been under de facto Russian occupation since 2014 – into Russian citizens.
Irina Volk, a spokeswoman for the interior ministry, said on Thursday that more than 80 per cent of Luhansk residents had already obtained Russian citizenship with 2,500 people applying for citizenship every day.
Ms Volk told Russian media that more than 900,000 Russian passports had been issued so far, more than half of them this year.
Luhansk was home to 2.2 million people before Russian troops and their proxies first seized parts of the Ukrainian region in the spring of 2014. Several waves of refugees have since fled the area, including men recruited by the Russian army.
A report by Yale University earlier this month suggested that Ukrainians living in Russian-occupied areas were being forced to accept Russian citizenship, fearing possible retaliation if they refuse.
Those rejecting Russian passports are “subjected to threats, intimidation, restrictions on humanitarian aid and basic necessities, and possible detention or deportation, all designed to force them to become Russian citizens”.
Ukrainian authorities, who early on in the war threatened Ukrainians with criminal charges for collaborating with the Russians, have somewhat softened their stance in recent months.
They argue, as in the case of the exiled adviser to Mariupol Mayor Petro Andryushchenko, that getting a Russian passport could now be a “matter of survival” for those who did not flee the occupation.
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