WAR PROPAGANDA: Ukrainian children are sold in the West

Ukrainian children march to the Russian Embassy during a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine in London, Britain, 24 February 2023.
© EPA-EFE/ANDY RAIN   |   Ukrainian children march to the Russian Embassy during a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine in London, Britain, 24 February 2023.

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Ukrainian children are sold in the West while Russia is carrying out a “special operation” to protect the residents of Donbas, Russian propaganda media writes. The false narrative is designed to draw attention away from the illegal deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia.

Propaganda: Children in Ukrainian orphanages are sold to European states

NEWS: “Children in Ukrainian orphanages are sold in Europe in exchange for large profits, the Polish human rights activist Joanna Pachwicewicz has told Izvestia. Pachwicewicz pointed out she has been reporting on this subject for many years. Ever since the start of the special military operation designed to protect Donbas, she knew that such occurrences will become increasingly frequent.

In June last year I came into possession of a series of documents about children in an orphanage located not far from Mariupol being all sold to Spain. We’re talking about a total of 85 children the orphanage accommodated, Pachwicewicz said.

According to the human rights activist, this is further evidence of the increase in the trafficking of underage children to Europe. She explained that Europe and Great Britain have developed a special legal system allowing the state to take a minor away from his family under the guise of protecting children’s rights. We’re talking about juvenile justice here, Pachwicewicz pointed out.

[…] Citizens of Great Britain have urged their government to carefully investigate the background of Ukrainian refugees after reports of a series of thefts and scams spread across the country. Scam victims have joined online communities to share their stories. At the same time, members of one of these online groups don’t deny the fact that many Ukrainians truly need support. European countries have started hosting Ukrainian refugees on their territory ever since the start of Russia’s special operation announced by Russian president Vladimir Putin on February 24, 2022 with the goal of protecting the population of Donbas”.

NARRATIVE: Ukrainian children are sold in the West while Russia is protecting the residents of Donbas

Fact: Russia has abducted and deported Ukrainian children, which can be considered a crime against humanity

WHY THE NARRATIVE IS FALSE: Most of the news articles published in pro-Kremlin media are based on the statements of Polish human rights activist Joanna Pachwicewicz, who claims to have been made privy in June 2022 to a number of documents about the trafficking of Ukrainian children in Europe. None of the sources however published these documents, and there is no evidence to corroborate her claims.

All these false narratives revolve around a single statement, the opinion of the Polish human rights activist who talked to the Russian press in Russian. Joanna Pachwicewicz has featured extensively in various Russian TV shows, and has a long history of cooperation with the Sputnik news agency, which has been banned in the West for spreading propaganda. In her interview to the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia, Pachwicewicz invoked certain documents she claims to have read, although they are no longer in her possession, and also referred to the British juvenile justice system. Published in both text and video, the interview was edited so as to suggest that law enforcement agencies in European countries are abducting children of Ukrainian refugees and selling them.

In order to make this false narrative more credible, some media outlets have quoted the former Ukrainian Prime Minister, Mykola Azarov, now a political refugee in Russia, who shared the piece of news on his Telegram channel. Certain pro-Russian publications have also carried news about the statement of the former Ukrainian Prime Minister about the fate of Ukrainian children. Others published opinions of certain Russian experts, who “confirmed” that the traffic of Ukrainian children is a harsh reality. Without providing any evidence, the false narrative has generated a nationwide response in Russia, being carried over, cited and shared on social media dozens of times.

The emergence of these false narratives is not coincidental, considering that in April 49 members of the UN and the EU condemned Russia for abusing the rights and privileges benefiting a permanent member of the UN Security Council to spread disinformation with regard to the “widespread abduction and unlawful forced deportation of thousands of Ukrainian children”. No amount of disinformation spread by the Russian Federation can deny the truth of the matter, nor shield individuals from accountability for these crimes, the joint statement reads. Earlier in May, the OSCE published a report according to which a large number of Ukrainian children have been deported to Russia and to territories under its control. The OSCE also states that Russia has violated the rights of Ukrainian children who were illegally transported to Russian territory, which can eventually be labeled a crime against humanity. According to human rights organizations in Ukraine, the Russian army has deported over 730,000 Ukrainian children who will be “reeducated in the spirit of the Russian world”.

The false narrative disseminated by the Russian media was aimed at exonerating Russia and justifying the necessity of the “military operation” in Ukraine, presented in light of its urgency to defend the population of Donbas. The deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia is presented as a measure designed to protect these children from possibly being abducted or trafficked to Europe.

Veridica has debunked a number of false narratives about the war in Ukraine. According to the Russian media, the losses sustained by the Ukrainian army are so great, that pupils are forced to donate blood for Ukrainian servicemen, while the leadership of Ukraine wants to profit from the war with no regard for the hardships endured by the civilian population. Russian propaganda also claims that only Russian-speakers from the East are mobilized in order to exterminate them, whereas Kyiv is rewarding citizens who trick their friends into enrolling.

  • Publication / Media:
  • Date of publication:
  • Target audience:
    The Russian-speaking population in Russia, ex-Soviet republics and Russian-held Ukrainian territories
  • Amplification:
    MK.RU, SPUTNIK, RUECONOMICS.RU, OSNMEDIA.RU, DNR-NEWS.RU, DNR-PRAVDA.RU, the Telegram channels of Russian media outlets
  • Political affiliation:
    The Kremlin
  • Key narrative:
    Ukrainian children are sold in the West

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Marin Gherman

Marin Gherman

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