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How Russia militarizes minors in occupied Donbas

The “ministry of state security of the Luhansk people’s republic” (MGB LNR) training child soldiers in the children’s summer camp Lisovi Prostory, Antratsyt Raion, ORLO, 2016. Photo: LNR MGB, source.
How Russia militarizes minors in occupied Donbas
Article by: Valentyna Bykova
Edited by: Yuri Zoria
On 24 June 2020, children and teenagers were forced to take part in military parades in the Russian-occupied territories in the east of Ukraine. Young residents of the so-called “Luhansk people’s republic” are actively taught not only the “hot war” methods but also the hybrid and information-semantic ones.

The policy to militarize children and adolescents in the Russian-occupied territories gains momentum as time is working against Ukraine. From an early age, the rising generation in ORDLO (“separate areas of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts” – the official euphemism for the occupied territories – Ed.) is indoctrinated with Russian propaganda messages that later become part of their sustainable worldview.

The International Center for Countering Russian Propaganda has provided insight for Promote Ukraine into this dangerous situation.

The necessity to bring up the “Putin’s Jugend” is enshrined in the Russian Federation’s latest military doctrine dated December 2014. In particular, it defines one of the major threats to the “Russian World” as

“the activities [directed] at the informational influence on the population, first of all on young citizens of the country (i.e. Russia – Ed.), aimed at undermining historical, spiritual and patriotic traditions in the field of the Fatherland protection.”

Children and adolescents in the Russian-occupied territories become part of this paradigm through involvement in both regular paramilitary organizations such as “Yunnarmiya,” and engagement in “patriotic” rallies or visiting “military-patriotic camps.” The work on the militarisation of the minors in the Russian-occupied territories of the Donbas intensifies during the long summer vacations from school.

School students, members of Yunarmia, marching at the military parade in occupied Donetsk on 24 June 2020. Source.

Particularly, the recent VE-Day military parades in ORDLO earlier postponed by Russia from 9 May to 24 June due to the COVID-19 pandemic involved the members of the so-called Young Patriotic Military Movement “Yunarmiya,” a carbon copy of the Russian youth organization “Yunarmiya” that is funded by the Russian Government through the Russian Ministry of Defence.

One of the main organization’s objectives is “forming the young generation’s readiness and practical capacity to fulfill the civic duty and constitutional responsibility of defending the Fatherland.”

Intelligence activities and tactical medicine for kids

Recently, [occupation authorities controlled media] – the website Luhansk Information Center and the Patriotic Association of Donbas page on VK [the Russian clone of Facebook] pushed local parents to send their children to the St. George “military-patriotic” training camp. The preferred category of the youngsters were the children from troubled families, including those listed by the “police.”

Military training for children in the Lisovi Prostory summer camp, Antratsyt Raion, ORLO, 2016. Source.

One more propagandist project of this kind targeting children is based on the summer children’s camp Lisovi Prostory (“Forest Spaces”) that operates in ORLO (“separate areas of Luhansk Oblast” i.e. its occupied part, – Ed.) since 2016 takes almost zero fees from the parents for hosting their children. The occupiers planned to pass more than 100 children through the camp in this year’s three sessions. Before the quarantine hit, every camp session involved 250 children.

Here, the children aged 8 and more learn martial arts, handling weapons and explosives, intelligence activities, tactical medicine, and even information warfare.

Weapons training in the Lisovi Prostory summer camp. Antratsyt Raion, ORLO, 2016. Photo: LNR MGB, source.

Their instructors are the employees of the so-called “LNR ministries”: of internal affairs, including the fighters of the Berkut special unit, of emergency situations, of health, and of information, press and mass communications.”

The chief of the “LNR information ministry,” Vyacheslav Stolyarenko, said at the opening of the Lisovi Prostory in 2016,

“For our units of ‘young journalists’ and ‘young cyber fighters’ we are going to purposely equip a computer class; we will give classes in photography and journalism.”

School students in the summer camp Zarnitsa, seized from Rovenkiantratsyt coal company to repurpose it for military training of children. Rovenki, ORLO, 2017. Source.

So the young residents of the so-called “LNR” are taught not only methods of “hot war,” but also of the hybrid and information-semantic ones. Next year, this system of “patriotic upbringing” is set to be imposed in other children’s camps in ORDLO.

Resurrecting another “crucified boy” style fake

Read more on this propaganda trope: Anniversary: “The crucified boy” turns two

Pro-Russian propagandist Oleksiy Akutin, in his greetings for the Youth Day, mentioned some “Valeria Liakhova, who had aged fifteen and died in a battle near Lysychansk in July 2014, when she and the ‘militiamen’ fought against the Ukrainian Armed Forces.”

This is an old fake story that was disseminated in November 2014 on Twitter and the Russian social media VK and According to the narrative, a minor child – Valeria Liakhova, call sign “Beauty,” whose father had died on the frontline, sacrificed herself by blowing up herself under a Ukrainian tank using three anti-personnel F1 grenades to save other militants.

This fake was spread widely, though soon it was refuted by the “deceased” girl herself. A girl named Polina Turchyna wrote that the photo of the girl who allegedly was the Valeria Liakhova is hers, and the author of the fake stole it from her for his post.

An attempt to resuscitate the old fake story, however, is indicative of the occupiers’ plans for the youth in ORDLO. Their only virtue, as per Russian propagandists, should be their readiness to kill and die.

The ORDLO’s population consciousness continues to be forcibly militarized, and these actions affecting children and adolescents are of particular concern.

The attempts of the occupation authorities to involve the minors in participation in hostilities are particularly dangerous. Propagandists do not neglect even fake stories to create appropriate patterns of behavior for the sake of educating young people in the “spirit of patriotism” and readiness to die for unrecognized “republics.”

The population of the occupied areas, in general, gets increasingly dipped into the “informational archaism,” as they get indoctrinated with the concept of “a carefree USSR life” that requires strongmen like Stalin and Purin with their NKVD/FSB “falcons” capable of confronting the imaginary “Ukraine’s Fascism.”

Read also:

Edited by: Yuri Zoria
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