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Kremlin uses church to erase identities of deported Ukrainian kids

A joint investigation found the Russian Orthodox Church actively engaged in destroying the ukrainian identities of children deported from occupied areas.
A Ukrainian kid. Credit: ZMINA
Kremlin uses church to erase identities of deported Ukrainian kids

A joint investigation by the Russian opposition student journal DOXA and open-source outlet Kidnapping highlights the role of the Kremlin-backed Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) in Russifying Ukrainian children whom Russian authorities have deported to Russia.

According to the ISW, DOXA found that “from the early days of Russia’s 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russian officials deported children from orphanages and boarding schools in occupied Donetsk Oblast to Russia’s Rostov Oblast, where they were visited by Metropolitan Mercury (Igor Ivanov) of Rostov and Novocherkassk, who spoke to them about the ROC and seemingly enticed them to consider baptism into the ROC.”

According to the report, “ROC clergy have also called for the baptism of deported Ukrainian children into the ROC and reportedly encouraged them to join various ‘military-patriotic’ youth organizations in Russia.”

DOXA and Kidmapping also found that deported children from occupied Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts stayed at shelters run by the ROC in Voronezh Oblast, where ROC clergy and affiliated officials hold ‘military-patriotic’ events for the deported children. The events aimed “to encourage pro-Russian and pro-ROC sentiment and cut the children off from their Ukrainian identities.”

ISW has previously assessed that the ROC is instrumental in enacting the Kremlin’s occupation plan for Ukraine, and this appears to extend to Russian efforts to Russify deported Ukrainian children living in Russia.

Kremlin-appointed Commissioner on Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova, against whom the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant due to her role in facilitating the deportation of Ukrainian children, is notably married to a ROC priest.

The investigative adds that Lvova-Belova and her husband have themselves adopted a deported Ukrainian child from Mariupol, highlighting the personal involvement of the ROC and other Kremlin officials in the deportation of Ukrainian children.

According to the ISW, the deportation of Ukrainian children, with the intent to destroy their Ukrainian identities via such Russification projects, amounts to a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which prohibits ‘forcibly transferring children of a group to another group’ because it is an act of genocide.

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