One Year Of Putin’s War Has Been A Catastrophe For Children In Ukraine

In February 2023, the world marked the year of Russia’s war against Ukraine, which brought about horrific atrocities, including, as determined by the U.S. State Department, crimes against humanity. The crimes include execution-style killings of Ukrainian men, women and children, torture in detention, including through beatings, electrocutions, and mock executions, rape and sexual violence, and deportations of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian civilians to Russia, including children. As Secretary Blinken explained, “these acts are not random or spontaneous; they are part of the Kremlin’s widespread and systematic attack against Ukraine’s civilian population.” Commenting on some of these crimes, and especially crimes against children, President Joe Biden observed that Russia has “stolen Ukrainian children in an attempt to steal Ukraine’s future.” Considering the nature and scale of atrocities perpetrated against children in Ukraine, these words send a warning about the effect of the atrocities on whole generations and the future of the country.

End of February 2023, Save the Children, an international, non-government organization, reported that children in Ukraine are those who are hit the hardest in this war. According to them, more than 4 children a day are killed or injured in Ukraine. Save the Children adds that this is assumed to be a gross underestimate. More than 3.5 million children in Ukraine live under severe to catastrophic levels of needs across the country. They added that “reports of sexual violence, killing, torture and other degrading treatment of children continue to emerge, with very little regard to International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law.”

Save the Children further reported that “Children have spent more than 900 hours hiding in bunkers across the country, with this number going significantly higher in areas closer to active hostilities. One year of war has been a catastrophe for children in Ukraine. Children live with constant fear and with the psychological distress of having witnessed violence, separation from parents, family members and friends, fleeing across borders or seeing their loved ones killed.” The war has resulted in school closures across the country, leaving children with online education as their only option. However, with less than 30% of children having access to an individual device in Ukraine, too many children are left out. Electricity cuts further affect even those with access to individual devices.

In March 2023, media reports suggested that many Ukrainian children are missing. Some are presumed to have been taken to Russia, others went on summer camps from which they never returned and their fate is unknown. Similar concerns have been raised in media reports in 2022 suggesting that Ukrainian children have been taken to Russia and subjected to illegal adoptions there.

The targeting of Ukrainian children is a tactic of Putin’s war as means of endangering the future of Ukraine. The targeting of children in Putin’s war requires the attention of those investigating and prosecuting the crimes. Furthermore, particular attention must be paid to any efforts to locate these children and reunite them with their parents or legal guardians.