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Russia gives a glaring glimpse at its Ukrainian teen “vacation” guise: ISW

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Russian authorities are continuing to deport children from occupied Ukrainian territory under the guise of “summer camp” programs, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

The Kremlin has previously been accused of “kidnapping” Ukrainian youth from the Russian-occupied Donbas region as part of a wider effort to erase Ukrainian identity. Russian officials have confirmed that such deportation efforts have occurred since the start of the Ukraine war, although Moscow claims that Ukrainian families have “voluntarily” sent children to Russian camps for “rest” and protection from the war.

According to the ISW’s latest assessment on Russia’s full-scale invasion, deportation programs are continuing in eastern Ukraine under the guise of a summer “vacation” for teens at a Russian military field training camp. The think tank pointed to a video posted by a Russian journalist on Thursday, which showed teenage boys at a Russian “V Army” field training camp in Kostroma Oblast, Russia.

Russia Gives Glimpse of Sham Teen SummerCamps
A boy stands in the entrance of the Donetsk People’s Republic embassy in Moscow, Russia, on September 23, 2022. Russia continues to deport Ukrainian children from occupied Ukrainian territory under the guise of “summer camp” programs for Ukrainian teens.
Alexander NEMENOV / AFP via Getty

“A trip to Kostroma this summer has become one of the most memorable vacation events for schoolchildren of the Melovsky district of the Luhansk People’s Republic,” the journalist wrote on Telegram. The video shows the teenage boys in military uniforms and learning tactical military skills. The young Ukrainians are also shown holding weapons.

The Luhansk People’s Republic is one of four Ukrainian regions that was illegally annexed by Russian President Vladimir Putin during sham referendums in the fall. The ISW noted that while deportation efforts have been well reported, Russia “rarely” allows such camps to be “so blatantly depicted.”

Russia’s deporting programs have been led by the Kremlin’s commissioner on children’s rights, Maria Lvova-Belova. Both the commissioner and Putin are facing an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court, accused of war crimes.

Newsweek has reached out to Russia’s defense ministry via email for comment.

Reports of continued deportation efforts come as Ukraine’s offensive operation to retake Russian-occupied territory rages on. The ISW on Thursday published maps that showed Kyiv had gained significant ground during the battle, which has been focused in southeastern Ukraine.

Andriy Zagorodnyuk, adviser to Ukraine’s defense ministry, previously told Newsweek that it was “too early” to tell if Ukraine’s recent success would prove to be Kyiv’s breakthrough after weeks of battle.

“But essentially, the operational plan is quite simple: to push the Russians in all different directions, find the place where development is most likely and then push more, and basically develop that direction,” Zagorodnyuk added.

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