A recent report from Yale University sheds new light on the plight of Ukrainian children who have been deported by Russia, many of whom the report says are being subjected to military training and reeducation.
The Yale School of Public Health’s Humanitarian Research Lab, which studied the deportation of thousands of Ukrainian children, found that the Russian and Belarusian governments have worked in tandem to organize such deportations. The report relied primarily on open-source research and some high-resolution satellite imagery.
At least 2,442 children from Ukraine have been taken to Belarus since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war, according to the report. The two allied countries coordinated the transport of the children — who are between the ages of six and 17 — from their home to a new life in Belarus, often by way of Russia first, the report says.
Eight out of 13 facilities the children are taken to in Belarus include reeducation programs that serve the “political interests of Belarus’ regime,” the report found.
In some instances, these programs include military training, according to Yale.
At least nine groups of children have been subjected to reeducation programs and at least six groups of kids have been forced to endure some sort of military training, the report found.
There are at least two groups of children deported from Ukraine who were brought to the bases of the Internal Troops of Belarus, a paramilitary law enforcement force in the country, the report said. The military unit has played a significant role in the violent suppression of pro-democracy protests in recent years.
Belarusian troops have subjected Ukrainian children to military training that includes handling firearms, wearing body armor, and watching military parades, lectures, and combat demonstrations, according to the report.
Dozens of children have also been given medical treatment of an uncertain nature, called “rehabilitation” by the Belarus government, per the report.
One hospital reported the children were forced to participate in “exercise therapy classes and group psychological correction, massage, and halotherapy, water and electrotherapy.”
In October, a group of 37 Ukrainian children arrived in Belarus where they underwent unspecified “medical evaluations” during which they were also re-educated, the report found.
Russia’s children’s commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova said this summer that more than 700,000 Ukrainian children had been taken from Ukraine to Russia, adding that the vast majority of those children came along with their parents and relatives.
The International Criminal Court in March issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Lvova-Belova on charges of illegally removing children from Ukraine to Russia since the war began.
International humanitarian law forbids the forcible transfer or deportation of any protected people.
Some Ukrainian children say they have been put in Russian foster and adoptive families while others are being repatriated to the country.