Since year-start, Putinism has doubled down on children and youths. This also applies to Ukrainian citizens, but especially to young Ukrainians living in the temporarily occupied territories. The regime is testing methods on minors that, in its opinion, will be able to turn Ukrainian children into Russians in a decade, and in the near term — to resolve Russia’s demographic problems and prepare a mobilization reserve for new wars of aggression.
Using the slogans of “uniting the Slavs,” they are already trying to engage young people into the Youth Army — the massive youth organization run by the Russian MoD. Young and politically charged teachers from Russia come to Ukraine to work with children — sort of professional entertainers of Russian fascism, who are supposed to engineer hearts and souls of the conquered population.
For example, as part of a weekly Russia lesson, they visit young people in ordinary schools for the purpose of propaganda. This class, entitled “Conversation about Important Things,” has been taking place every Monday since the beginning of the current school year, both in Russia itself and in the occupied territories.
Russian military and militants with the so-called “LPR” and “DPR” visits schools in Mariupol, which they themselves shelled, where they offer children candy, trying to gain their trust and empathy.
Even “senior figures”, such as members of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, also find time to “re-educate” children, coming to speak with them about “Ukrainian fascism.” Children are periodically forced to perform in front of “liberators” as part of their extracurricular clubs.
The “preventive care” for children introduced in the occupied territories is actually a game where Russia is posing as a “charitable” party. All for the sake of news like, “Doctors in Zaporizhia region are examining children at Putin’s request.”
On January 29, new instructions from Moscow regarding the implementation of the youth policy strategy until 2030 were made public. They made it clear that the occupiers are really tightening the screws. For example, they are planning to take the entire out-of-school education system under the control of the Russian government. Thus, all creative clubs in Russia and on the occupied territories have to become part of the system of the so-called All-Russia Civic and State Movement of Children and Youth — Movement of the First — which is planning to open its centres based on regional and municipal organizations for creative work of children and youth. But what is special about this system is that children in creative clubs will be systematically accompanied by “heroes of Russia” and “special military operation veterans” as part of the mentorship program.
In February, the Gauleiter of the occupied Crimea, Aksyonov, also announced they would be reinforcing work with young people.
By recruiting young people into the paramilitary structures of the Ministry of Defense, such as the Youth Army, Russia violates the Geneva Convention, which prohibits the recruitment of the civilian population of the occupied territories into the army. Working with high school students is nothing more than creating a mobilization reserve.
Researchers from Yale University discovered that Russia systematically relocates Ukrainian children to Russia and engages in their ideological re-education. They found 43 institutions where 6,000 Ukrainian children and teenagers had been brought since February 24. In most such institutions, they undergo pro-Russian re-education, while some are also engaged in military education or opposing the children’s return to parents in Ukraine, found the research.
The occupation of foreign territories by the aggressive regime of today’s Russia carries the danger of drawing their population into a vortex of fratricidal and aggressive wars. Even before the full-scale invasion, when about 7% of Ukrainian territories were under the control of Moscow, their inhabitants were already forced to kill and die in the interests of the Kremlin — in Ukraine, in the North Caucasus, in Syria.
Currently, according to the “Eastern Human Rights Group,” about one hundred thousand of its citizens have taken up arms against Ukraine, of which several tens of thousands have already died. And this is by no means a “civil war,” as the Kremlin’s mouthpieces are quick to declare.
How children are drawn into the cult of “Stalin/Lenin/Putin witnesses”
In November, the Kherson branch of “Youth Army” was opened. A certain Seraphim Ivanov was assigned to lead it. According to the website Investigator.org.ua, he is a member of the “youth section” of the St. Petersburg city branch of the All-Russia organization “Battle Brotherhood” — a non-profit organization of veterans of local wars and Russian military conflicts. At meetings with Ukrainian children, Ivanov promotes the message that Russia is a welfare state that cares about people, namely children, who have a lot of opportunities they didn’t have in Ukraine, where “everything is stolen.”
For example, this was his comment on the meeting with the schoolchildren of Henichesk (pictured): “We showed true opportunities, true benefits which are already attainable and which their peers use to improve. These are trips to Artek, the acquisition of medical care skills, military and patriotic training.”
On January 31, the Center for National Resistance announced that the Russians plan to ramp up “measures to raise the level of patriotism” in schools in the temporarily occupied territories. It was reported there that Crimean Gauleiter Aksyonov met with the regional head of DOSAAF (Voluntary Society for the Assistance to the Army, Aviation and Navy of Russia) Andrey Popov regarding the participation of this relic of the Soviet era in raising children. This applies to schools of Crimea, as well as the occupied areas of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson oblasts.
The Center for National Resistance also named the reason for such activity — the occupiers recently conducted a survey of attitudes among the youth of southern Ukraine, which proved that young Ukrainians do not support the occupiers.
Therefore, they decided to intensify work with Ukrainian children. Viktor Kaurov, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Youth Army, has already arrived in the occupied territories and held a meeting with Gauleiters Saldo and Balytskyi. As the Centre for National Resistance said, the Movement of the First is similar to the Komsomol and has characteristics of a totalitarian cult.
Direct campaigning for joining the Russian army in the occupied part of the Kherson region has already been observed. In the educational institutions of the Skadovsk rayon, during pre-conscription training classes, students of grades 10-11 were informed about possible enlisting in the Russian army.
In addition, the occupation administration in the Skadovsk, Kalanchak, Novotroitske, and Henichesk rayons announced the creation of cadet classes in schools, where young men from the age of 15 should “study military affairs in depth.”
The Center for National Resistance also reported that considering the lack of demand, Russians promise monthly payments of 4000 rubles to parents whose children go to study to their fake universities set up on the temporarily occupied territories.
Members of the State Duma, who visit the occupied territories, also care too much about Ukrainian children. “This is history that was not taught in Ukraine. In schools, the atrocities of the fascists were deliberately avoided, because it was necessary to heroize such inhumans as Bandera and Shukhevych,” said MP Kastyukevich to the children of Henichesk (pictured).
On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Melitopol Gauleiter Halyna Danylchenko dutifully spread Kremlin propaganda messages that Ukrainians are almost Hitler’s allies: “And today we not only remember the victims of fascism, but also understand who we are fighting against today, when our compatriots continue to die at the hands of the Nazis. The fight that will save our children and grandchildren from the filtration of crazy Ukrainian nationalists.”
As we can see, Russian propaganda has no moral barriers to cynical speculations on the subject of this tragedy of the Jewish people. Not to mention, who is actually engaging in Hitler-like Nazism and expansion in today’s Russo-Ukrainian war.
Councillors from the Russian outback are also being sent to Ukraine. “Young Guardsmen of the Zaporizhzhia oblast met with a member of the coordinating council of the ‘Young Guard of United Russia’ and a member of the State Council of the Udmurt Republic, Vyacheslav Devyatov. The meeting took place within the ‘I am the Guard’ project club. The participants discussed the topic of mass media: Telegram channels, freedom of speech, independence in journalism, etc.”
In January 2023, the occupation administrations also actively worked on a PR campaign with the participation of Putin himself — The Wishing Tree. The channels were flooded with stories about how Putin and other representatives of the Russian government make children happy: “A boy from the village of Dmytrivka was given a laptop as part of the campaign The Wishing Tree,” “The head of a Melitopol business, Vitalii Plakun, made a boy from the village of Dmytrivka happy”, etc.
At the end of August, members of the State Duma who attend the occupied territories presented a report in Moscow “On the Nazification of education in Ukraine.” It said that during the past 30 years, Ukraine was consistently “raising Nazis and nationalists, and now the task of Russian teachers is to re-educate Ukrainian youth.” A separate forum was dedicated to this. And it was then that the word “recoding” was first heard.
According to 0629.com.ua, in Russia-destroyed Mariupol, about a thousand Ukrainian teachers remain, most of whom agreed to collaborate with the occupiers. They were sent to courses in Russia, where local teachers “shared their experiences” and talked about the “unification of the Slavs.”
The ruscist propaganda in Mariupol also says that it was Ukraine and “Azov” that deliberately destroyed the city. For example, a cameraman of the Mariupol TV channel took part as a hero in creating a show for the Russian MoD, where he accused the Ukrainian army of all imaginable sins. Later, the occupiers awarded him with a flat. From this video, you can understand exactly what messages the occupiers are imposing on children:
“The Ukrainian tank was deployed behind residential buildings”
“The Ukrainian mortar was set up on the house roof"
“Ukrainian soldiers were burning buildings. They didn’t care whether there were people there or not.”
“Ukrainian military kicked people out of their flats”
“Ukrainian authorities never organized civilian evacuation”
“Ukrainian military shot whole families in their cars”
“The goal of the Azov was to kill as many residents of Mariupol as possible”
“There is a very strong propaganda in school, lessons promoting love for Russia and so on,” says journalist Maksym Hrabovskyi, who used to work at Mariupol TV before the full-scale invasion. “Personally, I was unnerved by the story about the occupiers who came to the school of my acquaintances’ daughter and gave out candy to the children. And then this girl said in a telephone conversation: ‘But the Ukrainian military didn’t bring us candy…’ The occupiers visit schools where younger students are encouraged to join the Orlyata [Eagles], and older students — to join the Movement of the First. Basically, same thing from the Soviet times. Teachers are also involved in this, and right there, in class, they make children choose what they will do in these organizations, instead of teaching. Such totalitarian brainwashing through the education system is a serious problem, and Ukraine must be ready to respond to this challenge.”
Evidently, the Russian regime conducts anti-Ukrainian propaganda aimed at children and youth in the occupied territories. “Heroes of the special military operation” are engaged in this activity. Some of the Mariupol teachers who could not or did not want to leave the city betrayed their country and agreed to work for the enemy.
The mass militarization of children through the “Youth Army” and school, lies and aggressive manipulations, the unification of all children’s groups into one totalitarian organization of the new Komsomol, the Movement of the First — all this clearly shows that Russian fascism itself is not a propaganda cliché, but a real threat, which Ukraine and the world are now facing.
Center for Strategic Communication and Information Security