“We Must Provide a Family, Not Rebuild Orphanages”

The Consequences of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine for Children in Ukrainian Residential Institutions
| Human Rights Watch | 2023
“We Must Provide a Family, Not Rebuild Orphanages”

This report documents the consequences of Russia’s 2022 war against Ukraine for children and staff who had been evacuated from institutions in areas of eastern Ukraine, at the front line of the war at the time, to a dozen institutions in the Lvivska region and three institutions in Łódź, Poland. The war meant many children in institutions had to shelter from bombardments in basements without electricity or running water, for weeks. A group of children from an institution in Mariupol did not speak for four days after they were evacuated to Lviv, in March 2022, apparently due to trauma, one volunteer said. Dozens of Ukrainian children’s institutions have been damaged or destroyed. Most were built before 1991, during the Soviet period, likely with materials containing asbestos, a carcinogen, which may have been released into the environment by attacks. Institutions that had housed tens of thousands of children are in areas which at time of writing are under Russian occupation or where hostilities are most intense. Human Rights Watch has documented Russia’s forcible transfer of children from Ukrainian residential institutions. In December 2022, a Russian official in charge of children’s rights stated in an interview that almost 400 Ukrainian children had been “adopted” by Russian families. Inter-country adoption is prohibited during armed conflict; the forcible transfer of civilians from occupied territory is a war crime. (...)

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