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Russia Kidnaps 30,000+ Ukrainian Children to Erase Their Identities: Kremlin Accused of 'Genocide'

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WASHINGTON – It's been more than two years since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Among the victims are thousands of Ukrainian children taken from their homes, and some survivors are now sharing their stories. Three of them spoke with CBN News on a recent visit to Washington to raise awareness.  

After Russia invaded Ukraine, Denys, Lisa, and Rostislov of Ukraine's Kherson region saw their lives upended. 

"How did your kidnapping happen?" CBN News asked Denys in a sit-down interview with the teens. 

"One day, some of my teachers came and said that all of us should be going to Crimea to the camp and then I went home, and that day in the evening, the Russian military came to my house and said that you have no choice, you are going to the camp," Denys explained. 

That camp and 42 other Russian facilities are going about indoctrinating Ukrainian children

"They forced children to love Russia in these camps," said Lisa. "They forced children to sing and to learn anthem and Russian songs and if you resist, if you wouldn't do it, they could punish you, or to put you in some family, some foster family in Russia."

"Were you afraid that you could have been adopted?" this reporter asked them. "What do you think would have happened to you had you not been rescued?" 

"After the camp I was moved to an occupied city and I was forced to go to some college there and I knew that they were going to get me a Russian passport and they were looking for a foster family for me," Lisa went on. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin is accused of fast-tracking citizenship for kidnapped Ukrainian children. The International Criminal Court has also issued a warrant for his arrest on war crimes charges in connection with these kidnappings. 

"I was suffering from psychological abuse a lot of time because when teachers, caregivers, and psychologists there knew that my mom was going to come and bring me back, all this period they were like pressuring me that it was all a lie, that my mom wouldn't come, that my mom hasn't so much money to come," said Lisa. 

All three teens say they suffered abuse in the camps. 

For Denys, who's diabetic, he was told he wouldn't get his medicine if he didn't obey. 

"A staff came to me and said if I wouldn't agree to be Russian and I wouldn't obey Russia I just would die in this camp because of my disease," he recalled. 

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Perhaps the most alarming story is Rostislov's, who refused to sing the Russian National Anthem. 

"If you say no for the first time, you must write an explanation why you don't want to sing the Russian National Anthem," he explained. "If you refuse for the second time, you will be having this private conversation with a policeman. If you refuse for the third time, you will be put in some solitary confinement." 

His third refusal led to more than two weeks in solitary confinement. 

Their stories are the stories of thousands of Ukrainian children. Ukraine has identified at least 30,000 who have been deported to Russia, but it's feared that number is actually much higher. 

"We can't identify all the kids who have been kidnapped from Mariupol or from another occupied territory because parents were killed or imprisoned or killed or disappeared and Russia don't want to give us any information about these children," Mykola Kuleba told CBN News. 

Kuleba founded Save Ukraine, an organization that's helped rescue hundreds of these children. 

"Russia is committing genocide," he said. "Kidnapping children, deporting children and brainwashing them and weaponizing them. All children who live now in occupied territory or in Russia Federation, horribly brainwashing."

He says Russia's goal is to erase their identities bit by bit. 

"They give children passports, Russian passports, birth certificates, they adopting children after giving them Russian citizenship," he added. "All this system works for erasing identity. For converting Ukrainian children to Russian children and then weaponize them through their different military movements."  

Save Ukraine helped rescue Denys, Lisa, and Rostislov. 

"Lisa, how did you finally escape?" CBN News asked. 

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"My mom came to me to bring me back and she was forced to sign lots of papers," she answered. "I was happy. I ran to her to hug her. I was crying. And then after that there was a very long and hard road home."

The specific details of their rescues have to be kept private. Kuleba calls it an "underground railroad." 

All three teens are now receiving rehabilitation at Save Ukraine's Hope and Healing Center which offers a six-month program to help them and their families get back on their feet. 

They came to Washington with Save Ukraine to raise awareness for the thousands of other children still being held. 

"We are asking everybody who could help, help us," said Kuleba. "Help Ukraine win in this horrible war and pray for us." 

2023Russian War Crimes Exposed: 'Tens of Thousands of Children Kidnapped'

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About The Author


Jenna Browder co-hosts Faith Nation and is a network correspondent for CBN News. She has interviewed many prominent national figures from both sides of the political aisle, including presidents, cabinet secretaries, lawmakers, and other high-ranking officials. Jenna grew up in the small mountain town of Gunnison, Colorado and graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she studied journalism. Her first TV jobs were at CBS affiliates in Cheyenne, Wyoming and Monroe, Louisiana where she anchored the nightly news. She came to Washington, D.C. in 2016. Getting to cover that year's