The Invisible Victims

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Earlier this year, doctors in Kherson, Ukraine immediately took action when they heard that Russians were invading their city. They quickly began making fake documents for orphans that claimed the children were too sick to move.

“We deliberately wrote false information that the children were sick and could not be transported,” said Dr. Olga Pilyarska in an interview with the Associated Press. “We were scared that (the Russians) would find out … (but) we decided that we would save the children at any cost.”

Pilyarska’s quick thinking prevented Russian troops from seizing Ukrainian children and sending them to live with Russian families – one of the worst atrocities to come to light since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of the former Soviet republic earlier this year. More than 1,000 children in Kherson were taken away while Russia occupied the city for eight months until its liberation in mid-November. More than 13,000 in total have been kidnapped, according to the Ukrainian government.

Sometimes Russian troops convinced parents to relinquish their children with the enticement of free summer camps in Russia where children would be safe from the fighting, wrote New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. But the children never return, and the Russian government has not been receptive to parents who have been trying to bring them back home.

Some of the kids were remanded to a “military-patriotic” training camp in Chechnya, a country led by Putin ally Ramzan Kadyrov. As Radio Free Europe wrote, Russian officials designated these Ukrainian children as “socially troubled” and in need of “re-education.”

Meanwhile, the United Nations recently accused Russia of committing numerous war crimes in Ukraine, including, stunningly, the summary execution of children, reported El Pais. Human rights advocates explained to ABC News that removing children from an enemy’s territory in this manner is a clear indication of Russia’s “genocidal intent” in Ukraine. Like rape, taking kids is a classic ethnic cleansing maneuver to destroy families and thus the basic building block of a nation’s sense of identity, added Forbes.

Bloomberg Opinion columnist Andreas Kluth called these abducted and missing Ukrainian children the war’s “invisible victims.” He wondered if they would ever be reunited with their families, even after the war ends. Investigators can find mass graves and see the damage that bombs and bullets have wrought. But parents won’t find closure until they have their children back.

Nobody should expect the Ukrainians to back down.

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