Missing Children: Victims of Russia’s Invasion

Children are being treated as collateral damage in Putin’s barbaric war.
A girl fleeing the conflict in Ukraine looks on from inside of a bus heading to the Moldovan capital Chisinau, after crossing the Moldova-Ukraine border checkpoint near the town of Palanca, March 2, 2022.

Putin’s war is affecting the most vulnerable Ukrainians: children. The Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights reported on August 11 that 361 children have been killed in the conflict. Along with that, 705 children have been injured, 6,159 children have been displaced, and 204 are considered missing. 

According to Magnolia, Ukraine’s leading missing child charity, well over 2,200 missing child reports have come in since the start of the conflict in February. Girls make up 54% of missing children in Ukraine, according to the nonprofit Missing Children Europe. Tragically, children who go missing are often susceptible to abuse, exploitation, and human trafficking. The reality is, children are this barbaric war’s collateral damage. This is one grim reality that The Kremlin’s propaganda machine can’t spin.  

Russian troops are also taking children of high profile Ukrainians as hostages. On April 8, Vlad Buryak, 16, was kidnapped by Russian forces due to his father’s role as head of the military administration in Zaporizhzhia, the region where Russian soldiers have seized Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. Oleg Buryak says for the first 48 days of his abduction, his son was kept with adult prisoners of war. Following 3 months of captivity and intense negotiations, Vlad was returned to his father last month. Buryak says that while his son was returned, “There are people who have lost their children, or whose children have died. There are parents whose children have disappeared without a trace.”

As part of Russia’s indoctrination regime, soldiers have been vacating Ukrainian orphanages and sending them to Russia for adoption, a violation of international law. In some cases, children with living relatives are being kidnapped and put up for adoption in Russia. This was the case with Tatiana Tolstokorova, who recognized her own granddaughter, 3-year-old Nastya, in a video posted by Russia’s presidential commissioner for children’s rights showing Ukrainian children getting off a bus to meet their new adoptive parents across the border. Tolstokorova hadn’t seen her granddaughter since their hometown of Mariupol was bombed four months prior. She immediately recognized Nastya, and commented on the video, “For the love of all that is holy, give me my star!” Moscow told Tolstokorova that the girl in the video wasn’t her granddaughter. 

Nastya, 3, who went missing after Mariupol was bombed and is thought to be in Russia.

“One of the elements of a genocide is taking children from one group and turning them into the other group. And we feel that we do see that this is happening,” said Aagje Leven, secretary general at Missing Children Europe. 

In missing child cases, the public plays an important role. We must remain vigilant in making sure all of these missing children come home. Go to https://missingchildreneurope.eu/get-involved/# to see how you can help these missing children and their families directly. 


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