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Priests of the Russian Orthodox Church deliberately destroy the identity of children deported from Ukraine — ISW

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A joint investigation by the Russian opposition student magazine DOXA and Kidmapping has revealed the large-scale role of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) in the russification of deported Ukrainian children.

This is stated in a new report by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

DOXA, in particular, writes that from the first days of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Russian officials deported children from orphanages and boarding schools in the occupied Donetsk Region to Rostov Region of Russia, where they were visited by Metropolitan Mercury (Igor Ivanov) of Rostov and Novocherkassk. He told them about the ROC and seemed to encourage them to consider baptism in the ROC.

ROC clerics also encouraged deported Ukrainian children to be baptized into the ROC and join various “military-patriotic” youth organizations in Russia.

DOXA and Kidmapping also found that deported children from the occupied Donetsk and Luhansk Regions were held in ROC shelters in Voronezh Region, where ROC clergy and associated officials held “military-patriotic” events to encourage pro-Russian sentiment and cut children off from their Ukrainian identity.

ISW has previously assessed that the Russian Orthodox Church plays an important role in the Kremlin’s plan to occupy Ukraine. This extends to Russia’s efforts to Russify deported Ukrainian children living in Russia.

The Kremlin-appointed Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, who has been issued an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court for her role in facilitating the deportation of Ukrainian children, is married to a ROC priest. Lvova-Belova and her husband had themselves “adopted” a deported Ukrainian child from Mariupol, underscoring the personal involvement of the ROC and other Kremlin officials in the deportation of Ukrainian children.

ISW continues to emphasize that the deportation of Ukrainian children with the intention of destroying their Ukrainian identity through such Russification projects is a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which prohibits the “forcible transfer of children of one group to another group” as it constitutes an act of genocide.

Arrest Warrant for Putin

In March 2023, the Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Russian President Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, who is the Russian Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Affairs. The warrants were issued in connection with the situation in Ukraine.

Putin and Lvova-Belova are suspected of committing a war crime—the illegal deportation and transfer of children from the occupied regions of Ukraine to the Russian Federation, which has been taking place since at least February 24, 2022.

The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation opened a criminal case against the prosecutor and judges of the International Criminal Court for “unlawfully prosecuting a known innocent” President Putin. Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, threatened to launch a missile strike against the ICC.

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