Not only strike on Okhmatdyt Hospital: Russian war crimes against Ukrainian children

Navigation and useful materials

Children’s Hospital Okhmatdyt became one of the targets during a massive missile attack on the cities of Ukraine on July 8. The Russians fired more than 40 missiles of various types at Kyiv, Dnipro, Kryvyi Rih, Sloviansk, and Kramatorsk. Although the exact number of injured and dead has not yet been established, the attack on the medical complex in the Ukrainian capital can already be called one of the biggest Russian war crimes since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. After all, the Kremlin chose as a target the largest children’s hospital in Ukraine, which is one of the largest in Europe.

The name “Okhmatdyt” reflects the main task of the institution, which is protection of motherhood and childhood. Up to 18,000 children are treated here annually, and about 20,000 receive emergency care at the trauma centre. Okhmatdyt’s doctors perform 7,000 operations every year. In particular, extremely complex bone marrow transplant operations for children with cancer. Thousands of children’s lives were saved here.

The missile attack on Okhmatdyt is not an accident and not an “excess of the performer”. The Russian Federation systematically and deliberately commits crimes against minor citizens of Ukraine, violating the basic rights of children. Death or injury due to shelling is only the tip of the iceberg. Russians kidnap Ukrainian children, separate them from their parents, and commit violence.

The Centre for Strategic Communications and Information Security recalls the most common Russian crimes against Ukrainian children.

Strikes on civilian objects and shooting evacuation convoys: how Russia kills children in Ukraine

According to the Office of the Prosecutor General and the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner, 555 children were killed and 1,429 were injured during the full-scale war, which lasted for almost two and a half years. As of the end of May, 2,021 children were considered missing as a result of the war. From the spring of 2014 until February 24, 2022, Russian aggression claimed the lives of 152 young Ukrainians, 146 were wounded and injured.

These statistics count only cases documented in criminal proceedings. It is currently impossible to say the exact number of victims of Russian aggression among children in Mariupol and other destroyed cities, as well as in the temporarily occupied territories.

The strike on Okhmatdyt is far from the first attack on a children’s hospital. On February 27 and March 4, 2022, this capital medical complex was attacked before, as a result one child died and four were injured.

The consequences of the Russian bombing of the maternity hospital in Mariupol in March 2022 were documented by journalists Mstyslav Chernov and Evgen Maloletka. The photos taken by Maloletka were then printed by leading world publications. These photos became one of the symbols of this war. And Chernov’s documentary film “20 Days in Mariupol” won the Oscar two years later.

Iryna Kalinina, an injured woman in labor, was caught in the lens of documentarians. The woman underwent an emergency caesarean section, but neither the mother nor the baby survived.

Kremlin propaganda claimed that the bombing of the maternity hospital and the death of the woman in labour was a “fake”. Claiming that the dead Iryna Kalinina and the other woman giving birth, Marianna Vyshemyrska, who was lucky to survive, are allegedly one and the same person.

In November of the same year, the Russians committed a similar crime, hitting the maternity ward of the Vilnius Hospital in the Zaporizhzhia region with a missile and killing the newborn Kyryl, who was only two days old.

Since the beginning of the full-scale war, the Russians have destroyed more than 200 medical facilities in Ukraine.

Children die and are injured during hostilities, being close to the frontline. They die from Russian missiles in the rear cities. They die from bullets fired by the Russian military and are blown up by mines. Whole families are often killed.

The Pryimenko brothers, 15-year-old Artem, ten-year-old Yehor, and five-year-old Kyrylo, died along with their parents and grandmother on March 8, 2022, when a Russian aerial bomb fell on the yard of their house in Sumy. The family did not have time to evacuate from the city.

The eldest of the brothers won the title of champion of Ukraine in sambo shortly before the invasion. The boy was included in the Ukrainian national team. He was supposed to participate in the European Championship among young men and the World Championship among cadets.

The Pryimenko brothers. Source: Memorial

At the same time, in March 2022, during the Russian bombing of the city of Izium in the Kharkiv region, another family was killed: the spouses Dmytro Stolpakov and Olena Stolpakova, their children, eight-year-old Oleksandra and five-year-old Olesia, as well as Olena’s parents, her sister and grandmother. It was possible to identify the dead after the occupiers were expelled from the city.

The Stolpakov family. Source: Instagram

On April 23, 2022, a Russian missile launched from the Caspian Sea hit a high-rise building in Odesa and killed eight people. The smallest of them, Kira Glodan, was less than four months old. She died with her mother. Kira’s father, Yuriy Glodan, joined the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and died near Bakhmut, performing a combat mission, in November 2023.

Glodan family. Source: Suspilne

On April 8, 2022, the Russians killed seven and injured 16 children when an OTR-21 Tochka’s tactical missile hit the railway station in Kramatorsk, Donetsk region. 11-year-old Yana Stepanenko lost both legs. The girl and her mother underwent a course of prosthetics and rehabilitation in the U.S. and returned to Ukraine.

In February 2024, Ukraine was shocked by the news of the death of a family with three children in Kharkiv. The fire that broke out as a result of the Shahed attack took the lives of Olga Putiatina, her husband Grigoriy and three sons: seven-year-old Oleksiy, four-year-old Mykhailo, and Pavel, who was only 10 months old.

On March 2, 2024, Russia killed five children at once as a result of an Iranian drone attack on a residential building in Odesa.

Russian propaganda hushed such cases, or declared them “fakes” (like the bombing of the maternity hospital in Mariupol), or justified by arguments about the inevitability of “collateral damage.” But this dubious “excuse” does not work whatsoever when it comes to shooting civilians, including minors. Azamat Uldarov, a former Wagner Group member, admitted in an interview with the project, that he and his “colleagues” personally killed women and children in Bakhmut and Soledar. The youngest victim of the mercenary, he said, looked five years old. The murder of nine sleeping civilians, seven adults and two children, by the Russian occupiers in the house of the Kapkantsi farmer family in occupied Volnovakha, Donetsk region, in October 2023, gained publicity.

Source: Memorial

A systematic phenomenon in 2022 was the shooting of civilian cars and evacuation convoys on roads controlled by the Russian military. The inscriptions “Children” on the cars did not stop the occupiers. Just as it did not stop the Russian pilots who dropped a bomb on the Mariupol Drama Theatre, in the basement of which civilians were hiding.

On September 25, 2022, the Russian military shot a convoy of civilians with infantry fighting vehicle and infantry weapons on the road “Kurylivka–Pishchane” in the Kharkiv region. Those who tried to escape were killed. Then 13 children and 13 adults were killed, including a pregnant woman. The bodies of most of them 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 occupied Luhansk and filmed her in propaganda TV shows.

Civilian convoy shelling near Kupiansk. Source: Office of the Prosecutor General

During the attack on the 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 wounded. A total of 32 people were killed.

Missile strike on a civilian convoy in Zaporizhzhia. Source: Security Service of Ukraine

The cemetery of destroyed cars in Irpen, Kyiv region, became a reminder of this type of crime committed by Russians. In April 2023, the Prosecutor General’s Office sent an indictment to the court against Stanislav Stenin, the company commander of the 106th Airborne Division. The investigation established that he gave the order to shoot a convoy of cars with the inscriptions “Children” and “Evacuation” on the way out of Irpen. Then the Russians killed five and wounded seven people, among them a young child.

Shot cars in Irpen. Source: Office of the Prosecutor General
Deportations and separations from parents

The Russian Federation has been deporting children from the territory of Ukraine since the beginning of the aggression in 2014, hiding behind loud statements about rescue and evacuation from the war zone. This campaign, which, after February 24, 2022, acquired new dimensions, is joined by the government structures of the Russian Federation, as well as various “charity funds” and “volunteer initiatives”.

The occupiers not only take families with children to the Russian Federation, but also abduct boarding school pupils, orphans, and separate children from their families, issuing Russian documents to the kidnapped children with new names and surnames. This is done in order to make it impossible for them to be identified and return home.

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

Ukraine established the names and approximate whereabouts of more than 19,500 children deported to the Russian Federation and the occupied territories. So far, only 389 children have been able to return home.

Ukrainian ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets estimates that the number of abducted children may reach several dozen or even hundreds of thousands. After all, in the occupied territories lived about 700,000 minors. In February 2023, the Russian propaganda news agency TASS, citing security forces, boasted that 738,000 children from Ukraine had arrived in the Russian Federation.

The Kremlin treats the population of the occupied territories as a trophy and perceives it as a resource for solving demographic problems in the Russian Federation. By decree of May 30, 2023, Putin introduced a simplified procedure for granting Russian citizenship to Ukrainian orphans, disabled people and children who left without parental care. Russian citizenship can be granted at the initiative of guardians from among Russian citizens, owners of so-called LPR and DPR “passports” or organizations that care for orphans.

The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin and Russian Children’s Ombudsman Maria Lvova-Belova for the illegal deportation and transfer of Ukrainian children from Ukraine.

Putin and Lvova-Belova. Source:

A single father, Yevhen Mezhevyi, was separated from his three children by the Russian military during the filtering operations in Mariupol, in the spring of 2022. While the father was in the Olenivka colony, little Matviy, Sviatoslava and Oleksandra were taken to the children’s sanatorium Poliany in the suburbs of Moscow, a structural unit of the Children’s Medical Centre of the Russian Federation President’s Administration. Together with the children, more than 30 other minor citizens of Ukraine were deported. Filip, a boy from Mariupol, who was “adopted” by Maria Lvova-Belova had been among them. Yevhen Mezhevyi managed to get free, take the children with the help of volunteers, and moved with them to Latvia.

 The Mezhevi family. Source: Radio Svoboda

After Lvova-Belova, the most famous Russian “adopter” among the powerful is Sergey Mironov, the head of the Duma faction “A Just Russia”. In 2022, he kidnapped two babies from then-occupied Kherson. Having learned about the illness of the boy Illia, the Mironov couple decided to get rid of him. But little Margarita Prokopenko, who has relatives and a legal guardian left in Ukraine, lives in the family of a Russian deputy under the name Marina Mironova.

Children who returned home talk about the humiliation, psychological and physical violence they had to endure in the Russian camps. The ban on communicating in the Ukrainian language, the ban on communicating with relatives in Ukraine, the daily performance of the Russian national with relatives in Ukraine, the daily performance of the Russian national anthem, ideological processing, and threats are what everyone was talking about. Preparation for adoption even if there are parents or other relatives in Ukraine is typical.

Torture and violence

From the first days of the occupation, the Russians began to build a system of terror and abuse of prisoners of war and civilian hostages. In the Kharkiv region alone, after the de-occupation, Ukrainian law enforcement officers discovered 25 torture chambers. People who passed through them testified about beatings, torture with electric current, hot metal, starvation, sleep deprivation, simulated shooting, etc.

In Kherson, the occupiers set up a torture chamber for minors. As Dmytro Lubinets reported, the Russians called the room where the teenagers were kept a “children’s cell.” A 14-year-old boy was mocked by the occupiers because he took a photo of military equipment. The teenager was not fed, water was given once a day, and they claimed that his parents allegedly abandoned him.

Violence against civilians, including rape, is routine for the Russian military. As of the end of May 2024, Ukrainian law enforcement officers had registered criminal proceedings for 292 episodes of sexual violence by the Russian military during the occupation. Among the victims are 15 children, boys and girls, aged from 4 to 17 years. Law enforcement officers admit that the real number of crimes is significantly higher. After all, not all rape victims are ready to talk about it.

The gravity of the crimes committed by the Russian Federation against Ukrainian children is difficult to overestimate. It is measured not only by the number of dead, injured, or those who have experienced violence. Ukraine will still have to count how many children have become orphans and lost relatives due to the Kremlin’s actions. To assess the impact on the physical health and psycho-emotional state of those who are in a stressful state due to a change of residence, regular shelling and air raids, or separation from parents. That is why all Russian war criminals must be punished for the suffering of every Ukrainian child. The only effective way to stop these crimes is to resolutely repel Russian aggression, deprive Russia of the opportunity to continue the war, liberate the occupied territories, and return all kidnapped Ukrainians home.

If you have found a spelling error, please, notify us by selecting that text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

Navigation and useful materials

Spelling error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: