The Yale report on the “Camps of Rogues”: Relocating, re-educating, and sometimes military train children in a Russian military camp”
The report contains disturbing new details of Moscow’s efforts to relocate, re-educate, and sometimes military train or forcibly adoption out Ukrainian children, actions that constitute war crimes and could potentially provide evidence of genocide.
“This is not a camp of rogues, this is a camp of people who are united by a common goal,” says Nathaniel Raymond, the executive director of the Yale Humanitarian Research Lab. “It is a massive logistical undertaking that does not happen by accident.”
“The Russian government needs to legitimize its activities, that make all of this seem normal,” she says, “because you simply can’t move these many children through these many places without their movements being noticed.”
“In some cases there is a case where the kids are supposed to go back home and never do, and in other cases they are re-education camps, but they never do,” he says.
The Yale report is the most extensive look at the program so far, says Raymond. “It shows scale, it shows chain of command, it shows logistical complexity,” he adds.
From Telegram to Facebook: Investigating Ukrainian Missing Children’s Transportation in February 2022 Using Social Network and On-The-Going Witnesses
“These first transports of children in early February 2022 included a group of 500 purported orphans ‘evacuated’ from Donetsk Oblast by Russia. The reason given publicly at the time was the supposed threat of an offensive by the Ukrainian armed forces,” according to the report. Some of those Ukrainian children were later adopted by Russian families.
The Ukrainian government and the UN have been warning about these activities for a long time.
When the first Russian social media posts appeared last year, the researchers at Yale began to investigate missing Ukrainian children. The messaging began at about the time of Putin’s adoption announcement, says one of the Yale researchers. He did not want to be named to make sure his work is safe.
“I believe the first places we saw this were on Telegram and then VK,” he says. Telegram is a popular Russian messaging service. VK is the Russian version of Facebook.
But now, open-source investigators have a trove of potential source material from on-the-ground witnesses who photograph war damage, map mass graves, record interviews with refugees — and post the results online. Satellite images make it easier to identify hospitals that have been deliberately damaged, and children’s summer camps.
There are about 20 people who look for connections in social media posts, news reports, government announcements, and Russian messaging services.
Yale Lab: A Cyber Cop Shop for Investigating Russia’s Crimea and Ukraine’s War Crimes and the Impact on Children’s Lives
“You can see people. You can see cars. You can see certain types of activity,” he said. “There’s a very large amount of material related to the patriotic education that they undergo while they are in camps,” he added. The lessons are designed, he says, to instill loyalty to Russia and promote Moscow’s version of the war.
“This operation is centrally coordinated by Russia’s federal government and involved every level of government,” according to the report. The Yale program identified several dozen federal, regional and local figures “directly engaged and politically justifying the program.”
The Yale team are all young Internet sleuths who work to verify the data they dig up and document the steps needed to meet the exacting standards and protocols for trial.
Raymond describes the lab’s role as a “cop shop” – a “cyber cop shop,” that is mindful to detail a chain of custody for the evidence produced. The show Law and Order helps him understand the Lab’s role.
He says they are the Jerry Orbach beat cop side and have a job to collect evidence and digital evidence and see how it meshes with the law.
We are showing we can collect evidence in ways that were not possible before. This scale of operation used to only be available to governments.
It is the future of war crimes investigations happening now at the Yale Lab, says Raymond, as civil society uses the same tools as governments, “at scale and at speed.”
“Mounting evidence of Russia’s actions lays bare the Kremlin’s aims to deny and suppress Ukraine’s identity, history, and culture,” it continued. “The devastating impacts of Putin’s war on Ukraine’s children will be felt for generations. The United States will stand with Ukraine and pursue accountability for Russia’s appalling abuses for as long as it takes.”
The network consists of 43 facilities that stretch from one end of Russia to the other, including Russian-occupied Crimea and the eastern Pacific Coast.
According to Raymond, a camp in Chechnya and a camp in Crimea “appear to be specifically involved in training children in the use of firearms and military vehicles,” but the researchers have not seen evidence at this point that the children trained in these military camps are being sent into conflict.
The report found that “many children taken to camps are sent with the consent of their parents for an agreed duration of days or weeks and returned to their parents as originally scheduled,” but noted that “in many cases, the ability of parents to provide meaningful consent may be considered doubtful, as the conditions of war and implicit threat from occupying forces represent conditions of duress.”
“It’s also critically important to understand that these are children who – the lack of contact that they have, or the only intermittent contact that they may have with their parents, is causing very real and potential harm on a very daily basis,” said Caitlin Howarth, also of Yale Humanitarian Research Lab.
The report said it “identified several dozen federal, regional, and local figures directly engaged in operating and politically justifying the program,” and “at least 12 of these individuals are not on U.S. and/or international sanction lists.”
Raymond explained that the system was consistent with both the Rome Statute and the Genocide Convention and that it did not permit the transfer of children from one group to another.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that “Russia’s system of forced relocation, reeducation and adoption of Ukraine’s children is a key element of the Kremlin’s systematic efforts to deny and suppress Ukraine’s identity, its history and its culture.”
The US State Department said in a media note that the illegal transfer and deportation of protected persons is a war crime.
The United States, European Union and United Kingdom have each imposed sanctions on her for her alleged role in the scheme. Legislation to expedite the provision of Russian Federation citizenship to Ukrainian children, the forced adoption of Ukrainian children into Russian families, and the deliberate removal of Ukrainian children from Russia are some of the things that Lavova-Belova is trying to achieve.
During emergencies, children separated from their parents cannot be assumed to be orphans according to the UN’s children’s organization. The UN furthermore considers forcibly transferring another country’s population within or beyond its borders to be a war crime.
The Donetsk camp in the Ukraine: children’s lives here in Donbass, and their orphans in Moscow, as they have come to know
I was crossing the threshold with a lot of apprehension about how they have settled in, what the relations with their parents and other children are like, and how long they’ll stay, I will be frank about it. “But all doubts were swept aside in the first minutes. The family is wonderful!”
“For me, this is yet another confirmation that the work that we have done on the placement of orphans from Donbass is not in vain. Everything was done right.”
“My thanks go to the British for the attention they have drawn to our mission of helping children in Donbass,” she wrote in June. “In Russia we enjoy friendship as families, as organizations, and as of now, as those affected by sanctions.”
Lvova-Belova started teaching children’s guitar when she was a child in Penza. She progressed through the Russian power structure and became involved in local politics.
Lvova-Belova posted a report on television in November that she remembered adopting a boy from Mariupol who was put on the streets after his mother died of cancer.
Alongside idyllic photos of campfires by the Black Sea, she said last August that Ukrainian children from the Donetsk region are in for an “extraordinary camp season.”
Teenagers can work out their life plans at the nine workshops that the camp has. We look forward to the opening of the camp!”
The case of the deaths of children in Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine – comments on a letter to the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine
The embassy went on to accuse Washington, which has provided military aid to Ukrainian armed forces, of being complicit in the alleged deaths of children in Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine.