At the beginning of 2016, the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) spread the information that “LPR” militants formed a children battalion in occupied town of Rovenki (the Luhansk region). It was claimed by Vitaliy Malikov, Chief of Anti-Terrorist Center at the SSU.
Children rights and freedoms are under threat as militants recruit minors into their armed formations. We have obtained information that there is a children diversionary unit under the name “St. George victorious battalion” with children from 12 to 16”, said Malikov.
This fantastic information happens to be a real consequence of militants’ “patriotic education”. Children of the occupied Donbas are taught to love motherland, to hate “Ukrainian fascists” and children are also taught how to kill them.
How patriots are brought up on occupied territory
There have been discussions of the militants’ “patriotic education” for a year. “News of Donbas” has written about it too.
It should be noted that “DPR” four “ministries” simultaneously deal with these issued on the occupied territory.
“The small working group of the council consists of ministry of education, ministry of sport, ministry of defense, ministry of culture, and some public organizations which are involved in patriotic education. After the meeting, they will develop their program”, as “DPR” reported in November, 2015.
Patriotic education is understood as glorifying “heroes” like Zakharchenko, Givi, and Motorola, and singing song about motherland under black-blue-red flags.
There are also “military patriotic” clubs created after the soviet ones. However, moot military games, like “Zarnitsa” with pioneers trying to find the “enemy’s headquarters” in a forest, are replaced with real training how to use small arms and artillery. Children are often trained by Russians, and this fact is widely advertised by separatists’ MM.
For example, the video about the training of military patriotic organizations devoted to “Survival in a forest” shows that children are taught how to use weapons, how to work in small groups, and to use the specific features of the area to attack the enemy in the most effective way. They do not speak about an abstract “potential” enemy, they speak about Ukrainians. The process is guided by a Yuriy Afanasiev, an instructor from Moscow, who is head of the center of patriotic education “Brotherhood of peoples”. He was shooting in Kodrskiy Canyon (Swans – locals – left this territory after the Russian-Georgian war; now it is the territory of unrecognized Abkhazia).
The video shows boys and girls running to-and-fro guided by their instructor Arnold. Militants say in a video interview that they do not teach children how to use weapons, but how to work in teams and they check children’s physical condition. However, the video witnesses the opposite.
In other youth organizations supported by militants which call themselves “volunteer” ones, active participants get bonuses in the form of shooting in a shooting gallery or the opportunity to assemble a real automatic machine gun.
The same “patriotic education” with arms in hands exists in Horlivka where girls call themselves “Amazons” and have mastered shooting from a launcher. They demonstrated their skills in Moscow.
Military patriotic sports club “Russian bear” is actively developing. The organization itself says that it existed at Donetsk Metallurgical Lyceum before the occupation, and when the militants came, it devoted itself to patriotic education The organization is head by former lyceum vocational education master Oleg Glushchenko. Besides sports competitions and excursions, they teach shooting; for example, it happened in occupied Uhlehorsk.
This organization’s propagating video presents a more “impressive” picture. Teens are taught to shoot from howitzer D-30 instructed by men in camouflage.
Are games with weapons dangerous?
Are games with arms dangerous? In 2015 members of an armed “Ghost” started educating a girl, 12-year-old Bohdana. She was a daughter of one of the militants. According to her, she cooks food for the militants, makes tea for them, and practices bandaging the wounded. The girl also writes poems, and words “junta” and “fascism” are widely used in them. The militants teach her to fire at “fascists”.
The girl says in front of the camera that she does not want to live in Ukraine because beasts live there, and she enjoys firing in the direction where “fascists” are, according to her instructors.
If to admit that not only Bohdana, who is injured by the war and manipulated by adults, but other children share such views, those who are taught to fire, to crawl with an automatic gun, and to love the motherland through hatred to enemies, then the reality of “children diversionary units” is not a fantastic idea.
Duting the peaceful time, psychologists, doctors, and parents argued whether it is useful for children to play “a war”, whether computer games with shooting are harmful. However, when the reality of the Donbas is a real war, it is unlikely that there are people who think that children should participate in a real war. It may be said only by those who do not care about their children.
Oleksandr Horbatko, chief of NGO “Donbas SOS”, said in his commentary to “News of Donbas” that hostilities are traumatic to children on both sides of the demarcation line. These traumas may be latent. They may not express themselves for a long time, and children do not speak about them and keep these traumas inside.
They try to somehow cope with these problems on the territory controlled by Ukraine though there are not enough efforts and money, and there is no possibility to cover large groups of people.
“What they do with children’s traumas on the uncontrolled territory cannot be accepted. Training with combat arms does not contribute to trauma compensation. More than that, the image of the enemy is formed when children target arms at people. It happens in the time when the official trilateral contact group discusses reconciliation and fulfillment of the Minsk Agreements”, says Horbatko.
Military patriotic games are held in Ukraine too. However, there is nothing in them which is connected with handling weapons by children.
New service "Explain Ukraine". This is a daily mailout of five articles which were written about the situation in the Donbas by Donbas journalists and translated into English. Honest vision of people who work in the field is unbiased and fresh which is crucial in the world which is full of desinformation and propaganda. We try to share this vision in out daily mailout. You can subscribe here.
You can also join our Facebook community.