Kyiv condemns ‘kidnappings’ as Russians foster Ukrainian kids

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KYIV – At their home in the middle of Siberia, Russian pastor Roman Vinogradov and his wife Yekaterina are the new foster parents of five children from Moscow-occupied eastern Ukraine.

The Vinogradovs are experienced fosterers now raising 16 children, including four of their own, and say they just want to help those who are “very much in need”.

But Ukraine and human rights groups have condemned the forced transfer of thousands of children into Russia or Moscow-controlled territory since the invasion in 2022.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has referred to “kidnapping, forced adoption and re-education of Ukrainian children committed by Russia”, calling this “a war crime and a crime against humanity”.

Russia says it is simply taking in “refugee” children from Ukraine.

“I didn’t steal anyone, and they (the children) don’t think they were stolen,” Mr Vinogradov, a 41-year-old Protestant minister, said.

The Vinogradovs, who live in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, more than 3,000km east of Moscow, said local authorities asked them to take in Ukrainian children after they requested another child.

“They phoned from children’s services, saying: ‘Will you take children from Ukraine?’” said Ms Yekaterina Vinogradova, 38.

“We said: ‘Yes, we’ll take them’. What difference does it make? Children are children everywhere. It doesn’t matter what nation,” she said.

Four girls and a boy

The couple are now fostering five Ukrainian half-siblings – four girls and a boy aged three to 12, who arrived from Moscow six months ago.

They already had seven foster children.

Agence France-Presse saw the children cheerfully sledding together, clearing snow around the couple’s large house and helping prepare a meal.

The Vinogradovs said the Ukrainian children came from children’s homes in the city of Lugansk, which has been controlled by Russian-backed separatists since 2014. They showed foster papers issued by officials from Lugansk’s pro-Moscow administration.

The children do not remember their mother, who was stripped of her parental rights, Mr Vinogradov said.

“The time will come, of course, when they ask questions. We’ll look (for her). Maybe we’...

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