Kherson Story of Hamelin Ratcatcher. Or How Russians Force Civilians to Leave

Russian propagandist Anton Krasovsky of Russia.Today urged “to drown Ukrainian children”. Even his Russian colleagues publicly condemned him. However, Russian occupants implement this inhuman approach in practice by conducting deportation of Ukrainian children behind the smokescreen of “school holidays” and “evacuation”.

Volodymyr Saldo and Elena Romanovskaya with children from occupied Zaporizka and Khersonska oblasts. Yevpatoria. 08.10.2022. Photo: Фото:

When “Russian heads of authorities” in Donetsk and Luhansk announced so-called “evacuation” of civilian population on February 18, 2022, it was clear whom this evacuation would cover at first. Children from children’s houses in Donetsk and Luhansk were immediately evacuated to Russian Rostov-na-Donu. Self-proclaimed “heads” of children’s houses were the first assistants of the Russian evacuation: Viktoria Mochalova, “director” of “Luhansk Children’s House”, and Tetyana Sorkina, “director” of “Children’s Social Center” from Donetsk. 

In 2014, Sorkina returned two 5 years old boys without permission from Myronivka children’s house in Kyivska oblast to Donetsk. As Russian propagandists declared, boys were sick and baited after their time in Myronivka. 

Russian “games over humanism” always targeted children from children’s houses and people from shelters for elderly persons as their first victims. They often found teachers and trainers on occupied territories, willing to help them. If necessary, they were strengthened by “Russian volunteers”. It is easy to organize beautiful propaganda “picture” of evacuation – groups of children, white buses, and generous “adults-volunteers” with letters of the Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations on their uniform.  

The similar story happened in occupied Kherson in October 2022. 

School holidays or evacuation? 

The so-called “ministry of education” of Kherson oblast announced on October 5, 2022 school holidays in secondary schools and professional training schools of Kherson, Bilozersky, Beryslavsky, Kakhovsky and Snigurivsky “municipal districts” and Novokakhovsky “urban district”. Its “order” recommended heads of educational institutions to organize holidays for children. School holidays were introduced on all territory of Kherson oblast occupied by the Russian Federation on October 11. Then, they were prolonged until October 25, 2022.

At the beginning occupation administration headed by Vladimir Saldo was quite ambiguous about its further plans. Sergei Aksenov, Crimean colleague of Saldo, announced on October 5 that Crimea “will host 5 thousand children from Kherson region for school holidays”.

Volodymyr Saldo, so-called “temporary governor of Kherson oblast” in Yevpatoria, 08.10.2022. Photo: screenshot Rutube Первый канал

Saldo visited Crimean Yevpatoria on October 8 where Kherson children were brought for school holidays. It was surprising that he started talking about evacuating adults from Khersonska oblast: “As we do not have quiet situation in Kherson, it is better for all to be here. It also applies to adult population. Russian cities Krasnodar and Stavropol, Crimea are ready to host adults and children. Each Russian oblast is ready to host up to ten thousand people…”

There was no talk about official “evacuation” at that moment at all. Ukrainians sounded the alarm. Yuri Sobolevsky, the First Deputy Head of Khersonska Oblast Council, warned on October 9, 2022 that there was a risk that Russians would not return the children to their parents in Kherson and refer “to dangerous conditions in Khersonska oblast”.

Saldo tried to dismiss his words about future “evacuation’. He said on October 10 that “each Russian region (“Republic of Crimea”, “Krasnodarsky and Stavropolsky oblasts”) is capable to host up to 10 thousand people for holidays. But the population of Khersonska oblast is far larger. Ukrainian enemies are lying about evacuation”.

But then Saldo asked about help with “evacuation” – just in three days, on October 13! Marat Khusnullin, official “curator” of Crimean issues in the Russian government, declared on the same day about assistance to Khersonska administration with evacuation of inhabitants “to other regions of the country”. Free of charge accommodation and help to receive permanent housing and other convenient conditions were promised to future refuges. 

Thus, deportation was officially launched. Here you can read why we call it “deportation”.

Vice-Prime-Minister of the Russian Federation Marat Khusnullin approves “evacuation” from Khersonska oblast, 13.10.2022. Photo:

Kherson children, school holidays and camps were used by Russians as the smokescreen for deportation. All children were brought to Yevpatoria. The Association of Reintegration of Crimea wrote on October 29 that they were placed in five camps: “Druzhba”, “Zdravnytsia”, “Luchisty”, “Mria” and “Chaika”. Some children began protesting when they were told they would not be returned home. As an outcome, “curators” of children’s camps were strengthened by “kozaks” and “armed volunteers”. 

12-13 years old girl in “Luchisty” camp asked Saldo on October 8 to get children’s parents from Kherson to Crimea. Kakhovka high school students confirmed to Russian journalists on November 6 that they were taken from their home city for two weeks at the beginning of October but then their holidays in the camp were prolonged as “evacuation” started.  

Russian “holidays” are stressful for children. For school pupils, the perspective to get separated from mother and father seems to be the scariest nightmare. 

“Ukrainian children are lagging behind Russian school program”

Elena Romanovskaya, “vice-prime-minister of the Republic of Crimea, minister of labor and social protection”, became “curator” of children’s “holidays” in Crimea. She has been among the first occupation public officials to announce Crimean “holidays” on October 6. Later on the press service of “the Council of Ministries of Crimea” confirmed that 5 Yevpatoria sanatoriums and children’s camps were selected to host “evacuated” school children from Khersonska and Zaporizka oblasts. “Luchisty”, “Druzhba” and “Mechta” belongs to so-called “DUP RK “Solnechnaya Tavrika”, the largest Crimean conglomerate of sanatorium and resort institutions. “Chaika” and “Zdravnytsia” are registered as separate legal entities. 

Elena Romanovskaya, “vice-prime-minister and minister of labor and social protection of the Republic of Crimea”, Photo: RIA Novosti

From the very beginning Russian occupants did not hide that “holidays” of children from occupied Khersonska and Zaporizka oblasts have propaganda purposes. For example, Elena Romanovskaya stated: “It is important for us that study will not stop for children. We talked with minister of education of Crimea about teaching Russian language, history and literature. We will start with Crimean history, Crimean “Spring”. We will make children friends with Crimean children, organize excursions…”

School children were handled by volunteers of Russian propaganda movement #мывместе. They had to attend Russian patriotic propaganda lessons “Razgovory o vazhnom” [Talks about important]. The Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation tried in August 2022 to use these lessons to justify “de-militarization and de-nazification” of Ukraine, “special military operation”, “heroes of the special military operation” etc. 

Children without their families were brought from Kherson region to Crimea as well as to the territory of the Russian Federation. The first train with “Kherson refuges” came to Anapa (Rostovska oblast in Russia) on October 11, 2022. Official decision about “evacuation” was not yet taken at that moment. As the Ministry for Emergency Situations of the Russian Federation reported, the majority of 500 train passengers were children, including children from children’s houses. Donetsk story of February 2022 was repeated with Kherson residents, 

It is impossible to determine now the exact number of Kherson children whom Russian deported without their parents to Crimea or Russia. 

“Parents do not try to contact their children…”

Anna Kuznetsova, the Deputy Head of the State Duma of the Russin Federation, visited sanatorium “Zdravnytsia” in Yevpatoria on November 2, 2022. Sanatorium has hosted children brought from occupied Khersonska and Zaporizka oblasts since October 9. Kuznetsova, the former Russian children’s ombudswoman, emphasized that children could “lag behind school program”. Children perceived Russian language teaching courses bad whereas high school students were not prepared to pass Russian final exams. It was easier for the first class pupils as “they started from scratch”. 

Nobody doubted that Russian occupation authorities would impose Russian education “standard”. Moscow does not recognize its aggression and does not fulfill its obligations as the state-occupant. 

Anna Kuznetsova, the Deputy Head of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, in sanatorium “Zdravnytsia”, Yevpatoria, 02.11.2022. Photo: screenshot of video

Kuznetsova also pronounced far more dangerous theses. Ukrainian human rights activists and public officials suspected such theses would be the true purpose of “holidays”.

Here is what Kuznetsova said:

“There is another problem. Parents of the one third of children did not contact them. Their children are here but we do not know where their parents are. They do not show interest towards their children”.

Next step is “the adoption of children abandoned by their parents”. 

What is the scale of the Russian “evacuation” of Ukrainian children? Russian propaganda channels reported about 850 children brought to Yevpatoria from occupied territories of Khersonska and Zaporizka oblasts. Since the beginning of the Russian full scale invasion in February 2022, Russians have brought over 10 thousand Ukrainian children from Ukraine to Russian regions, in accordance with the data of the Ukrainian Center of National Resistance. Some of them are orphans others do have parents. It means Russians force Ukrainian parents to go to Russia and look for their children around an immense country. 

Valentina Lavrik, so-called “minister of education, science and youth affairs of Crimea”, declared on November 8 that 9,6 thousand children from Khersonska, Zaporizka oblasts and so-called “DNR” and “LNR” were able to spend their summer holidays in Crimea this year. 545 children from Zaporizka and Khersonska oblasts recently stayed in Crimean camps, in accordance with information of Russian “Krym-24” TV channel. Their number was 850 children, as it has been announced at the earlier meeting with Kuznetsova. 

Russian occupants officially stopped so-called “evacuation” from the right bank of Dnipro on November 7, 2022. Population of Kherson City decreased from pre-war 320 thousand to current 70 thousand people, according to Ukrainian mass media. 

Moscow invented an intricate plan of deportation of the Ukrainian population. It is aimed at breaking social bonds within Ukrainian families by separating children and their parents behind the smokescreen of “school holidays” and “evacuation”. It is impossible to determine now the exact number of Ukrainian children brought by occupants to the Russian territory with or without their parents. 

It seems Russian occupants did not expect so strong resistance by residents of Kherson region, Despite Russian propaganda fake threats of Ukrainian “destruction of Kherson”, a few local people agreed to evacuate. Then, Russian occupants developed and implemented their version of Hamelin ratcatcher with children… 


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