Russian authorities forcibly deport legally incapacitated people from occupied territories

Photo: Sophia Lvova-Belova's Vk Page
Photo: Sophia Lvova-Belova's Vk Page
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Russian media outlet Vazhnye Istorii (Important Stories) has reported that the Russian authorities are forcibly deporting incapacitated people from the occupied territories, and the Kremlin's children's ombudsman Maria Lvova-Belova and the foundation where almost all of her relatives worked are involved in the deportation.

Source: Vazhnye Istorii (Important Stories); Latvia-based Russian media outlet Meduza

Details: The Russian authorities noted that as of July 2023, at least 700,000 children have been deported from Ukraine to Russia since the start of the full-scale invasion.

International law prohibits the displacement of the population from the occupied territories  – such actions can be considered a war crime.

That is why the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for Maria Lvova-Belova and Russian ruler Vladimir Putin in March 2023.

Vazhnye Istorii, together with The Reckoning Project, a project to investigate war crimes in Ukraine, has found out that Lvova-Belova was involved in the forced deportation of not only children but also adults who have been declared legally incapacitated by the courts.

The ombudsman's sister, Sophia Lvova-Belova, head of the Kvartal Louis Foundation (Louis Quarter Foundation), which is supported by government officials and businessmen close to the Kremlin, is also involved in the deportation of incapacitated Ukrainians.

Vazhnye Istorii found out that the Russian authorities had taken four residents from the Oleshky orphanage for children with special needs in Kherson Oblast – Oleksandr Danylchuk, Anastasiia Mamotiuk, Victoriia Markeliuk and Anastasiia Yavorovska – to the city of Penza. The town of Oleshky has been occupied by Russian troops since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. All four residents are adults who have been declared legally incapacitated and deprived of parental care. Both Ukrainian and Russian law does not allow them to dispose of their property and money independently, to marry or to go to court.

The incapacity of these orphans may indicate that they were involuntarily transferred to Penza, Vazhnye Istorii notes. At the same time, Gleb Bogush, an international law expert and lawyer, explains in a commentary to the publication that international law prohibits the transfer of people from occupied territories, regardless of age or legal capacity. Forcible transfer of civilians without good reason can be considered a war crime and under certain conditions – a crime against humanity, Bogush says.

These four people were transported to Penza on the eve of the opening of a special residence called Novye Berega (New Shores), a place for people with disabilities and orphanage leavers with physical and mental disabilities. The residence is a project of the Penza-based charity organisation Kvartal Louis, which was created by Maria Lvova-Belova. Initially, the ombudsman headed Kvartal Louis and Novye Berega herself, but in the spring of 2023, her younger sister Sofia, who had previously worked there as an architect and designer, became the head of the foundation. Vazhnye Istorii notes that almost all of Maria Lvova-Belova's relatives have worked for the organisation at different times: her father, Alexei Lvov-Belov, husband Pavel Kogelman, and brothers Pavel and Fyodor (they work at the Kvartal Louis branch in Krasnodar).

The Novye Berega project was supported by Vladimir Putin and high-ranking officials, including then-Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Head of the Federation Council Valentina Matvienko, Penza Oblast Governor Oleg Melnichenko, Patriarch Kirill and other government officials (the Federation Council is the upper chamber of the Russian parliament – ed.). More than US$2.2 million were spent on the construction of the residence – money was donated by entrepreneurs close to the government, including Roman Abramovich, Vladimir Potanin, and the foundations of Konstantin Malofeev and Gennady Timchenko. The project also received presidential grants.

It was the children's ombudsman's sister, Sophia Lvova-Belova, who met the children from the Oleshky Orphanage in Penza. Together with them, six people with mental disabilities from the Shakhtarsk orphanage from the territory of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic were placed in the Novye Berega.

Prior to this, the authorities of the annexed territories thanked Maria Lvova-Belova for her ‘close cooperation’ in organising the deportation. The opening of the Novye Berega in November 2023 was attended by the head of Penza Oblast, Oleg Melnichenko, and Sergey Novikov, the Head of the President’s Administration's Department for Public Projects - Medusa's sources called him the ‘chief censor’ of Russian culture.

Vazhnye Istorii managed to talk to one of the orphans taken from Kherson Oblast, 27-year-old Oleksandr Danylchuk. He said that he had been warned about his transfer to Penza only the day before his departure (at the same time, Maria Lvova-Belova said that she had ‘invited’ the children to Novye Berega back in September 2023). Danylchuk said they were not asked if they wanted to move, and Russian passports were already issued in the occupied territory. In Ukraine, Danylchuk still has friends and foster parents, with whom he was forced to part ways after the war broke out – the family moved to Romania. However, the possibility of returning to Ukraine is out of the question now, Danylchuk says.

Sophia Lvova-Belova denies that any of her new wards want to return to their homeland. According to the law, the organisation where the person lives becomes the guardian of the incapacitated person, and Lvova-Belova, as its head, has the right to manage the money and property of the wards (including their pensions), as well as to represent their rights in court.

An international arrest warrant has already been issued against Maria Lvova-Belova. It was issued in March 2023 by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which suspected Lvova-Belova and Vladimir Putin of illegally deporting children from the occupied territories of Ukraine to Russia. Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, as Lvova-Belova said in July 2023, more than 700,000 children have been taken from Ukraine to Russia. The Children of War project reports that more than 19,500 minors have been forcibly deported from Ukraine. More than a thousand Ukrainian children were placed under preliminary guardianship by the Russian authorities, Vazhnye Istorii wrote.

In addition, in April 2024, Vazhnye Istorii and Vershka found profiles of at least 285 children taken from Ukraine to Russia in the all-Russian database of orphans. Most of the questionnaires state that the children can be adopted, although Maria Lvova-Belova claimed that children from the occupied territories are placed in foster care rather than adoption, as it would be easier to return them to their blood relatives. Journalists suggest that Russian families have adopted at least 76 of the 285 children.

On 27 April, Dozhd, an independent Russian television channel, learned about the adoption of a six-year-old boy from Ukraine by a Russian family. The new family changed the child's surname, patronymic and place of birth. The channel's journalists found out that the boy's mother had been deprived of parental rights under the laws of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic. He had brothers and a sister, but nothing was known about his father and other relatives.

Read more: Ukrainska Pravda identifies the overseers of abduction of Ukrainian children

Support UP or become our patron!