Thousands of Ukrainian children missing after taking part in Russia-organized camps

Reuters file photo
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the Zaporizhzhia region of Russian-controlled Ukraine is seen in October.

WARSAW — Thousands of Ukrainian children are feared to have been forcibly taken to Russia and gone missing, as there have been a number of cases reported in which children have not returned to their homes after taking part in Russia-organized camps and rehabilitation programs.

Such cases have been reported in the four eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, which Russia unilaterally annexed at the end of September.

A female pharmacist, 41, in Enerhodar, in southern Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, told The Yomiuri Shimbun that her 10- and 12-year-old sons still have not returned home about a month after taking part in a summer camp in the Krasnodar region of southern Russia in October.

The camp was organized by the Russian authorities occupying Enerhodar.

Being impatient, the woman has been spending days in tears, she said in an interview via social media.

The woman said she sent her boys to the camp hoping they could have vitamin-rich meals and a nice break, because they had been hunkering down in an underground shelter.

Enerhodar, home to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, has been under constant bombardment since August.

About 500 people from Enerhodar and surrounding villages participated in the camp, leaving in 10 buses. The camp was supposed to last for six days from Oct. 15, but a week later, the authorities told the families that the children would not be returning for the time being. The families were also told to send clothes for their children because they would be attending a Russian school.

The woman, feeling so helpless, said she wanted her children back, but had no means of getting to Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video speech on Nov.14 that at least 11,000 identified children had been forcibly taken away to Russia.

It has been pointed out that children are forcibly taken in order to instill Russian values in them at an early age and make them lose their Ukrainian identity.

Speaking to The Yomiuri Shimbun via social media, Enerhodar Mayor Dmytro Orlov said that the children were taken hostage.