Ukraine claims to have discovered evidence that Russia has been torturing children in the city of Kherson. The area had been occupied by Russian authorities for months until it was liberated by the Ukrainian military in early November.
On Wednesday Dmytro Lubinets, the Human Rights Commissioner for Ukraine’s Parliament said they had recorded evidence that children have been tortured by Russian force “for the first time”.
He said: “In one of the torture chambers, we discovered a separate cell where children were kept.”
It ia believed Russian forces in Kherson had nicknamed the chamber the “children’s cell” and that the room’s existence was known by local Ukrainians under the occupation.
Commissioner Lubinets added: “In one of the torture chambers, we discovered a separate cell where children were kept.
“I thought that the bottom could not be broken after Bucha, Irpin… but we really reached the bottom in Kherson.”
Mr Lubinets has said that according to local testimony, children were given little water and almost no food.
The children were also subject to psychological abuse by Russian forces as they were told their parents had abandoned them and they would never see their homes again.
One 14-year-old boy was captured and held in cells for taking a photo of broken Russian equipment, accordion to the Human Rights Commissioner.
In August, a 16-year-old interviewed by the Kyiv Independent said he had been captured by Russian forces in occupied Melitopol and was forced to do tasks such as cleaning the “torture room” of blood.
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It is currently estimated that 60 percent of Ukrainian children have had to flee their homes during the Russian occupation according to Dr. James S. Gordon, founder of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine.
He said: “Every child in Ukraine and all Ukrainian children who have left, are experiencing some level of distress.”
It is estimated that 443 children have been killed in the war and more than 855 have been injured, but actual figures are likely to be higher as they cannot include areas in Ukraine currently occupied by Russia.
It comes at a time Daria Herasymchuk, Ukraine’s advisor to President Zelensky about children’s rights, has said this week that at least 13,000 Ukrainian children in occupied areas in Ukraine have been kidnapped and illegally taken to Russia.
Last Friday, the advisor said that the final figure of children who have been taken is currently unknown, but added: “We still have to learn about at least tens of thousands of Ukrainian children who were stolen by the Russian authorities.”
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Nikolay Kuleba, Ukraine’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights, said that the Russian media have reported a “horrifying number of 712,000 deported Ukrainian children”.
The Commissioner said the Russian Government is pushing propaganda that Russia is “saving” these children.
He said: “The Russian authorities made a conscious decision to resettle deported children into the territories thousands of kilometres away from Ukraine.”
Mr Kuleba also claimed that Russia was encouraging Russian citizens to adopt the taken children by simplifying the adoption process and giving adoptive parents $300 (£242) a year for each child they adopt.
He claimed Russian adoptive parents were allowed to change Ukrainian children’s names plus their birth dates and added: “This means that it will be very difficult for us to personally find and identify our children in the future.”