Ukraine charges three for deporting Kherson orphans

STORY: Ukrainian prosecutors on Friday charged three people with war crimes over the alleged deportation of dozens of orphans from the formerly-occupied city of Kherson.

A Russian politician and two suspected Ukrainian collaborators are the first suspects to be charged by Ukraine.

Prosecution documents seen by Reuters allege 48 orphans were taken from the Kherson Regional Children's Home in September and October 2022 and re-located to Moscow and Russian-occupied Crimea.

The document said if proven, this is a violation of the laws and customs of war under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, and punishable by up 12 years in prison under Ukrainian law.

Yuliia Usenko is the head of the Department for the Protection of Children's Interests in Ukraine's Prosecutor General's office:

“We don't know how these children are, in what conditions they are kept, or what their fate is. There are no guarantees that the children were not adopted, illegally adopted by Russian citizen, or they are located in other institutions on the territory of Russian Federation.”

The charges brought by Ukraine's prosecutors follow a wider investigation carried out in cooperation with the International Criminal Court.

The ICC issued an arrest warrant in March against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia's Commissioner for Children's Rights.

It accuses them of the war crime of illegally deporting hundreds of children from orphanages and children's homes in Russian-occupied Ukraine.

The Kremlin on Wednesday again dismissed allegations that Russia had violated children's rights in Ukraine.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that they evacuated children from conflict zones.

Usenko says Friday's move against the three suspects was just the beginning.

“We want to hold accountable all the war criminals, all the people that committed horrible international crimes against our Ukrainian children.”

The public documents redact the names of the suspects, who are believed by prosecutors to be either in occupied Crimea, or Russia.

Unlike at the ICC, trials in Ukraine can be held in absentia.