When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

TOPIC: children s rights

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

They Tracked Down Ukraine's Missing Children In Russia, But Can't Get Them Home

An investigation by Russian independent news outlet Vazhnyye IstoriiImportant Stories found nearly 2,500 orphaned children who may have been forcibly deported from Ukraine and are being raised as Russians. There is no mechanism set up for their return.

MOSCOW — Russia has a state database on orphans and children left without parental care, which publishes profiles of children available for adoption. Russian independent news outlet Vazhnyye Istorii/Important Stories found that children deported from Ukraine appeared in the database.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

The number of Ukrainian children openly sought for foster care by Russian authorities may be almost 2,500. The system does not facilitate searching for Ukrainian relatives of these children, nor does Russia provide the children with an opportunity to remain in Ukraine.

"Brushes, paints, an album — everything you need. I like it very much," says the boy as he examines the school kit donated by the volunteers. He has a cap on his head with "Together with Russia" written on it. He is 9-year-old Alexander Chizhkov, referred to in the TV report as a "forced migrant." Russian authorities removed him along with other orphaned children from Donetsk.

Watch VideoShow less

Inside Moscow's Vile Scheme To Kidnap And "Russify" Ukrainian Children

In Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine, an estimated 19,000 children have been abducted and put in so-called "filtration camps," Soviet-era-like facilities where they are being "re-educated" in brutal conditions. Exclusive testimony from several victims who managed to escape.

KYIV — "If the whole world could hear me, I would say that we need to win this war as soon as possible so that all children can see their families again..."

Those words come from 12-year-old Sashko from the southeast Ukrainian city of Mariupol, who was separated from his mother by Russians during the so-called "filtration" procedure in the Donetsk region.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

Sashko is one of the thousands of children taken to the Russian Federation from the occupied regions of Ukraine under the guise of evacuation and ensuing rehabilitation ,to teach them to "love Russia."

On March 17, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Presidential Commissioner for Children's Rights in Russia, Maria Lvova-Belova. They are suspected of facilitating the forced deportation of children from the temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories, violating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

According to the Office of the Ukrainian Prosecutor General, at least 19,000 minors have been taken to Russia and annexed Crimea since the beginning of the full-scale war. Only 364 have been returned.

Ukrainska Pravda talked to dozens of children who have managed to get back to Ukraine, testimonies that can now help able to identify the places of their detention, methods of abduction, and the names and positions of Russians who facilitated the crime.

Keep reading...Show less

Russia Boasts Of Capturing A Ukrainian Orphan Who'd Tried To Return Home

Last spring, after Moscow's troops occupied Mariupol, minors with no parents were forced from the southern city to go to Russia. One 17-year-old recently tried to escape, and return home to be with his sister. He didn't make it — and Russia proudly shared the story.

A 17-year-old Ukrainian who'd been forcibly taken from occupied Mariupol to Russia at the start of its full-scale invasion was trying to return home, but was captured by Russian security forces at the border with Belarus and will be sent back to Russia.

Maria Lvova-Belova, the so-called ombudsman for Children's Rights in Russia, held a press conference on Tuesday to share the news that Russian security forces had detained Bogdan Ermokhin and returned him to a "foster family" in Russia.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

Lvova-Belova said that Ermokhin had been emotionally manipulated and threatened by Ukrainian “agents” into returning back to Ukraine, where he has a sister. The agents supposedly organized transport and financial support for Ermokhin. “He was deceptively lured out,” she said, “at the last moment, we managed to stop him.”

Keep reading...Show less

Ukrainians In Occupied Territories Are Being Forced To Get Russian Passports

Reports have emerged of children, retirees, and workers being forced by the Russian military and occupying administration to obtain Russian Federation passports, or face prison, beating or loss of public benefits.

It's referred to as: "forced passportization." Reports are accumulating of police and local authorities in the Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine requiring that locals obtain Russian passports. Now new evidence has emerged that Ukrainians are indeed being coerced into changing their citizenship, or risk retribution from occupying authorities.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

Ever since late September, when President Vladimir Putin announced Russia hadd unilaterally annexed four regions in eastern and southern Ukraine (Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson), Moscow has been seeking ways to legitimize the unrecognized annexation. The spreading of Russian passports is seen as an attempt to demonstrate that there is support among the Ukrainian population to be part of Russia.

Keep reading...Show less
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Anna Steshenko

Tracking Russia's Deportation Of Ukrainian Children — And The Case For Genocide

Russians have been practicing the illegal transfer and deportation of Ukrainian children since 2014. Experts consider it one of the five main signs of genocide, and Ukraine's Office of the Prosecutor General has been working to prove this component of the "crime of crimes."

KYIV — After the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022, the removal of Ukrainian children with subsequent rapid "adoption" or placement in Russian families quickly gained momentum. It is a topic that has recently gotten more coverage after Vladimir Putin paraded several such children from the occupied city of Mariupol at a pro-war rally in Moscow.

But it's also important to see the hard facts — and moral and legal significance — of what has actually happened across much of eastern Ukraine.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

As of the end of February 2023, more than 16,000 children have been illegally deported. A month earlier, this figure did not exceed 13,000. And these are only verified cases. The actual number may be much higher, but it is impossible to establish exact figures now.

In December 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin approved a process for applying for renunciation of Ukrainian citizenship and obtaining Russian citizenship by residents of the annexed regions, which includes provisions for recognizing a child under the age of 14 as a Russian citizen.

Watch VideoShow less
Catalina Ruiz-Navarro

Parental Rights v. Children Rights? Why Courts Keep Getting It Wrong

Justice works around adults. Keen to uphold parental custody rights, family courts have effectively allowed violence against children by giving abusive parents access. So it is time the legal system stopped ignoring children.


BOGOTA — Recently a sound recording from Bogotá of a 10-year-old girl crying and pleading not to be made to live with her father went viral online. The father had faced two sets of charges relating to domestic violence and sexual abuse of the girl, who had earlier described to court doctors his inappropriate physical contact.

Watch VideoShow less
Prudence Phiri

Zambia, Trapped In A Generational Cycle Of Poverty

The pandemic has scuttled Zambia’s efforts to combat child labor and keep kids in school. The result is a generational cycle of poverty.

LUSAKA, ZAMBIA — A gray haze hovers above the garbage dump, a stain on an otherwise blue sky. Known as Marabo, the site unfurls across almost an acre of dirt, with mounds of plastic bags and cracked bottles baking under the midmorning sun. On the north end, dark green-and-black mud cakes the rubbish, emitting a sewer-like stench. The smell clings to the body long after one leaves.

Watch VideoShow less
Alice De Souza, Clarissa Levy, Mariama Correia, Diana Cariboni

Probe Finds Brazil's Religious Homeschooling Groups Encourage Corporal Punishment

As Brazil prepares to legalize homeschooling — a campaign promise that President Bolsonaro hopes to fulfill before October's elections — a disturbing investigation by openDemocracy and Agência Pública finds that Brazil's religious homeschooling groups, supported by ultraconservative U.S. associations, are giving parents instructions on how to spank their children while dodging the law.

Training dished out by Brazil’s homeschooling industry is encouraging parents to spank their children “calmly and patiently” as a teaching tool, a disturbing investigation by openDemocracy and Agência Pública has found.

Books, websites and videos seen by our journalists give parents tips on how to spank children and dodge the law — by avoiding major injuries, visible marks and public humiliation. They also say parents who do not punish their children with “the rod” do not love God or their children.

Watch VideoShow less
Alidad Vassigh

Colombian Gen Z Wins Battle For The Right To Have Blue Hair At Graduation

A determined student's victory for freedom of hair in conservative Colombia.

BUCARAMANGA — It may not be remembered alongside same-sex marriage or racial justice, but count it as another small (and shiny) victory in the battle for civil rights: an 18-year-old Colombian student whose hair is dyed a neon shade of blue has secured the right to participate in her high school graduation, despite the school's attempt to ban her from the ceremony because of the color of her hair.

Leidy Cacua, an aspiring model in the northeastern town of Bucaramanga, launched a public battle for her right to graduate with her classmates after the school said her hair violated its social and communal norms, the Bogota-based daily El Espectador reported.

Watch VideoShow less

Iran Registers Record Number Of Child Brides

Numbers are rising of girls aged 14 and under getting married, as well as births from very young mothers.

Nearly 10,000 girls aged 10 to 14 years were married off in Iran in the first months of 2021, the highest recorded rate of child brides for a country already criticized for limiting the freedoms of women and girls.

Watch VideoShow less
Juan Camilo Rivera

Child Soldiers In Colombia: Victims Or Killers?

Underage or not, guerillas who continue taking up arms against the state are 'war machines,' the Colombian defense minister recently stated. But what if they were forcibly recruited?


In late 2019, the Colombian Armed Forces launched an air attack on dissident fighters of the now-disbanded FARC guerrilla army. They bombed a camp in the southern district of San Vicente de Caguán, killing 18 FARC fighters. At least seven of them were minors.

There was uproar in Colombia and the defense minister faced sharp criticism and was forced to resign for hiding the fact that children had been killed. Was it legal, people wanted to know, to bomb a base when it was known that the fighters there included children?

Less than two years later, the country is talking about a similar incident, one that occurred on March 2. The protagonists were the same, with more allegations of the dead including children. The current defense minister, Diego Molano, has defended the attack. He promises that the state prosecution service will determine the exact age of the dead fighters, but adds that the more important point, in any case, is that even if the fighters are underage, they've been turned, by their recruiters, into war machines able to commit terrorist attacks. He said the army had acted in keeping with International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

It's true that the IHL does not expressly outlaw military operations where minors are found to be participating directly in hostilities. But nor does it obligate states to carry them out. In that sense, IHL is closer to a restrictive law, though the decision to launch the attack and its justification are neither solely nor principally a juridical matter.

They've been turned, by their recruiters, into war machines.

Some war atrocities repeat themselves, as do the narratives built to explain them. In fact, this debate is closely tied to another that has been present for decades in the Colombian conflict: Can members of illegal armed groups, whether children or not, be considered victims?

Instead, they're usually considered perpetrators of the violations associated with the group to which they belong. Certainly some members of the group are responsible for such violations, as the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and the Truth Commission will help show. But the idea evades the fact that in the Colombian conflict, there were numerous cases of forced recruitment of minors and of sexual violence, among other acts of violence, committed against them.

Nov. 1 protest in front of Bogota's Supreme Court demanding peace accords be respected — Photo: Sebastian Barros/NurPhoto/ZUMA

Various occasions international and national laws have indicated that the same person can, at different times, be both victim and a perpetrator of criminal acts. For example, the Law of Victims ("La Ley de víctimas') stipulated that members of illegal armed groups could only be considered victims if they had demobilized while still underage. The stipulation, which was little debated as the law was processed, was confirmed by the Constitutional Court with the argument that while members of such groups can be victims of human rights or IHL violations, it was legitimate for the state to limit the reparations allocated to them in the law, and it could exclude them payments. That is, these will not receive reparations pursuant to the Victims law though legally speaking, they are considered both victims and perpetrators of IHL violations.

Can members of illegal armed groups, whether children or not, be considered victims?

In spite of this coincidence, victims and perpetrators are frequently spoken of as opposites. This is implied by Defense Minister Molano's comments on children becoming "war machines," though his words go further by dehumanizing the children. From perpetrators, they have become instruments.

This description has its use: It distracts from issues like loss of human lives, the age of the dead, the possibility that they were forced into the conflict or the precarious socio-economic conditions of their families. Being war machines, the military option against them is not just legitimate but inevitable. There is no need to say more on what the state must do to rectify this injustice, beyond blaming — rightfully, it should be said — all those who have dehumanized these children.

Watch VideoShow less

Watch: OneShot — UNICEF: Children And The Right To Have Fun

Yes, to have fun and relax — at least sometimes —should be considered a human right. Especially for children. UNICEF France and One Shot put the concept together in a single image. Enjoy!

UNICEF For Summer Holidays 2019 ©UNICEF/Brian Sokol

Watch VideoShow less