Killings, Abductions, Torture: Russia’s Crimes against Ukrainian Children

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Nine-year-old Viktoriia Ivashko and her mother Olha were killed in a missile attack on Kyiv on June 1 when they tried to enter a shelter on the territory of a medical facility in the Desnianskyi district of the capital. The tragedy occurred on Children’s Day. 

Victoriia Ivashko. Source: Mykhailo Koshliak / Facebook

In the evening of the next day, during the Russian shelling of the Kupyansk community in Kharkiv Oblast, a four-year-old boy was injured.

Ukrainian children suffer from Russian aggression every day. The number of dead, wounded, and missing kids according to official data is measured in hundreds.

On June 4, Ukraine commemorates the memory of children who died as a result of Russian armed aggression. 

But killing and injuring are just the tip of the iceberg. Russia deliberately and systematically violates the basic rights of minor citizens of Ukraine and commits crimes against them. Children are separated from their parents, deported, and subjected to various forms of violence. 

The Centre for Strategic Communication and Information Security reminds of the most common crimes of Russians against Ukrainian children.

Strikes on Cities and Shootings of Evacuation Columns: How Russia Kills Ukrainian Children

According to the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, 484 children were killed, 992 were injured, 393 are considered missing during the full-scale war, which has lasted for more than 15 months.  Since spring 2014 to February 24, 2022, Russian aggression took the lives of 152 young Ukrainians, 146 were injured.

Source: Prosecutor General’s Office

These statistics consider only the cases documented in criminal proceedings. It is currently impossible to calculate the number of victims of the war among children in the destroyed Mariupol and the temporarily occupied territories.

Children are killed and injured during the hostilities, being near the front line, killed by Russian missiles and shells, by bullets fired by the Russian military, and mines. 

The Pryimenko brothers, 15-year-old Artem, 10-year-old Yehor, and five-year-old Kyrylo, were killed along with their parents and grandmother on March 8, 2022, when a Russian air bomb fell on the courtyard of their house in Sumy. The family did not manage to evacuate from the city.

The eldest of the brothers had won the title of Ukrainian champion in sambo shortly before the invasion. The boy was included in the Ukrainian national team, he was to participate in the European Championship among boys and the World Championship among cadets.

The Pryimenko brothers. Source: Memorial

At the same time, in March 2022, during the Russian bombing of Izium in Kharkiv Oblast, another family was killed: the spouses Dmytro and Olena Stolpakov, their children — eight-year-old Oleksandra and five-year-old Olesia, as well as Olena’s parents, her sister, and grandmother. The bodies were identified after the city was liberated from the invaders.

The Stolpakov family. Source: Instagram

On April 8, 2022, a Tochka-U tactical missile hit the Kramatorsk station, Donetsk Oblast, killing seven and injuring 16 children. 11-year-old Yana Stepanenko lost both legs. The girl and her mother were sent for prosthetics and rehabilitation to the United States.  

The Stepanenko family. Source: First Medical Association of Lviv

A Russian missile fired from the Caspian Sea on April 23, 2022, hit a high-rise building in Odesa and killed eight people. The youngest of them, Kira Hlodan, was not even four months old. She died with her mother.

The Hlodan family. Source: Suspilne

The youngest victim of Russians was Kyrylo from Vilniansk, Zaporizhzhia Oblast. The boy, who was only two days old, died from a missile that hit the maternity ward of the district hospital on the night of November 23, 2022.

The photo, taken by Evgeniy Maloletka after the Russian bombing of the maternity hospital in Mariupol, was published the world’s leading publications. It became one of the symbols of this war. The photographer captured Iryna Kalinina, a wounded woman in labour. The women underwent an emergency caesarean section, but neither the mother nor the infant survived. 

Russian propaganda claimed that the bombing of the maternity hospital and the death of the mother were “fake.”

The above-mentioned cases are either silenced by Russian propaganda, or declared “fakes” (like the bombing of the maternity hospital in Mariupol), or justified by speeches about the inevitability of “collateral damage.” But this dubious “excuse” does not work whatsoever when it comes to shooting civilians, including minors. “Wagnerite” Azamat Uklarov admitted that he and his “colleagues” personally killed women and children in Bakhmut and Soledar in an interview with the project The youngest victim of the mercenary, according to him, was five years old.

The systemic phenomenon in 2022 was the shooting of civilian cars and evacuation convoys on the routes controlled by the Russian military. The word “Children” written on the cars did not stop the occupiers. Neither did it not stop the Russian pilots who dropped a bomb on the Mariupol Drama Theatre, with civilians hiding in the basement.

On September 25, 2022, the Russian military shot a convoy of civilians on the Kurylovka-Pishchane road in Kharkiv Oblast using IFVs and infantry weapons. Those who tried to escape were killed. 13 children and 13 adults died, including a pregnant woman. Most of the bodies were burned. Five-year-old Polina and one-year-old Mykhailo, whose parents died, were saved by a passer-by. Their 12-year-old sister Maryna was wounded, Russians took the girl to the occupied Luhansk and filmed in propaganda television.

A convoy shot near Kupiansk. Source: Prosecutor General’s Office

During the strike on a humanitarian convoy in Zaporizhzhia on September 30, 2022, children were also killed: an 11-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy. A five-year-old girl was injured. A total of 32 people died.

A convoy shot in Zaporizhzhia. Source: Prosecutor General’s Office

The cemetery of destroyed cars in Irpin, Kyiv Oblast served as a reminder of this type of crime of Russians. In April 2023, the Prosecutor General’s Office referred an indictment to court against the company commander of the 106th Guards Airborne Division, Stanislav Stenin. The investigation established that he gave the order to shoot a column of cars with inscriptions “Children” and “Evacuation” at the exit from Irpin. Back then, Russians killed five and wounded seven people, among them was a child.

Shot cars in Irpin. Source: Prosecutor General’s Office

Deportations and Separation from Parents

Russia has been practising the displacement of children from the territory of Ukraine since the beginning of the aggression in 2014, hiding behind loud statements about rescue and evacuation from the combat zone. This campaign, which took on new dimensions after February 24, 2022, involves both the government structures of Russia and various “charitable foundations” and “volunteer initiatives.” 

The occupiers not only take families with children to Russia, but also kidnap boarding school pupils, orphans and separate children from their families. In particular, the practice of sending children to health camps with the subsequent blocking of their return to their parents has become widespread. Especially if during the “recovery,” the native cities and villages of children were liberated from occupation.

It is worth noting that the creation of obstacles for families seeking to bring back children is a violation of International Humanitarian Law, in particular, the Fourth Geneva Convention, and can be interpreted as a war crime.

Ukraine has established the names and approximate location of more than 19,500 children deported to Russia and the occupied territories. So far, only 371 children have been brought back home.


According to Ukrainian Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets, the number of abducted children can reach several tens or even hundreds of thousands. After all, territories where about 700,000 underage citizens lived were under the Russian occupation. In February 2023, the Russian propaganda news agency TASS, referring to the law enforcement forces, boasted that 738,000 children from Ukraine arrived in the territory of Russia.

The Kremlin treats the population of the occupied territories as a trophy and perceives it as a resource for solving demographic problems in Russia. By the decree of May 30, 2023, Putin introduced a simplified procedure for granting Russian citizenship to Ukrainian orphans, incapacitated persons, and children left without parental care on the initiative of guardians from among Russian citizens, owners of so-called “passports” of the “LPR/DPR,” and organizations caring for orphans.

It was for the illegal deportation of Ukrainian children from Ukraine that the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin and Russian children’s ombudsman Maria Lvova-Belova.

Putin and Lvova-Belova. Source:

15-year-old Artem from Kupiansk, together with twelve other children aged 7 to 17 years, were taken by Russians to the occupied Perevalsk, Luhansk Oblast, and from there to the occupied Crimea. The occupiers kidnapped the children, allegedly “saving” them from the counteroffensive of the Ukrainian army. This story has a happy ending: the boy’s mother, Nataliia Zhornyk, with the help of volunteers from the Save Ukraine Foundation, managed to bring her son home, most of the children taken away remain in the occupied territory or in Russia. The woman shared the story of the rescue of the child with reporters of The New York Times.

Single father Yevhen Mezhevyi was separated from his three children during filtration measures in Mariupol in the spring of 2022. While his father was in Olenivka penal colony, little Matvii, Sviatoslav, and Oleksandr were taken to the children’s health centre “Poliana” in the Moscow region, a structural unit of the Children’s Medical Centre of the Presidential Administration. Together with the children of Mezhevyi, more than 30 minor citizens of Ukraine were taken to Russia. Among them was Filip from Mariupol, who was “adopted” by Maria Lvova-Belova. Yevhen Mezhevyi managed to get out, bring back the children with the help of volunteers, and go with them to Latvia.

The Mezhevyi family. Source: Radio Liberty

Children who returned home tell about the humiliation, psychological and physical violence that they had to endure in Russian camps. The ban on communicating in Ukrainian, the ban on communicating with relatives in Ukraine, the daily performance of the Russian anthem, ideological indoctrination, threats — this is what everyone talked about. The evidence of preparation for adoption in the presence of parents or other relatives in Ukraine is typical.

Torture and Violence

From the first days of the occupation, Russians began to build a system of terror and abuse of prisoners of war and civilian hostages. In Kharkiv Oblast alone, after the de-occupation, Ukrainian law enforcement officers found 25 torture chambers. People who went through them gave testimonies of beatings, torture with electric current, hot metal, hunger, prohibition to sleep, imitation of shooting, etc. 

In Kherson, the occupiers set up a torture chamber for minors. As reported by Dmytro Lubinets, Russians called the room in which the teenagers were kept a “children’s chamber.” The occupiers tortured a 14-year-old boy because he photographed military equipment. The teenager was not fed, water was given once a day, and it was claimed that his parents allegedly refused him.

Violence against civilians, including rape, is commonplace for the Russian military. As of the end of March, Ukrainian prosecutors and police officers registered criminal proceedings for 175 episodes of sexual violence by the Russian military during the occupation. Among the victims are 13 children: 12 girls and one boy aged four to 17 years. Law enforcement officers admit that the real number of crimes is significantly higher. Not all rape victims are willing to talk about it. 

The gravity of the crimes of Russia against Ukrainian children is difficult to overestimate. It is not only measured by the number of people killed, injured, or subjected to violence. Ukraine will still have to calculate how many children became orphans, lost their relatives due to the actions of the Kremlin, assess the impact on the physical health and psycho-emotional state of those who are stressed due to change of residence, regular shelling and air alert, separation from their parents. That is why all Russian war criminals should be punished for the suffering of every Ukrainian child. 

Centre for Strategic Communication and Information Security

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