- The Russian Youth Army was created in 2016 at the initiative of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. “They call it a patriotic organization of children and youth of a military nature,” Gavrilov describes the organization.
- Within this system, the Russians have recently strengthened the military component of the exercise. – We saw records from the occupied territories of Zaporozhye Oblast, for example Melitopol, which confirms this – he says.
- Gavrilov concludes that our goal is to prove internationally that the Russian Youth Army is a criminal organization
- More important information can be found on the Onet home page
Maria Sipsiura: What is the Russian Youth Army operating in Russia and the occupied territories of Ukraine?
Vladislav Gavrilov: It was created in 2016 at the initiative of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. They call it a patriotic organization of children and youth of a military nature. This includes children aged 8 years and above. At the age of 14-15, military training begins, the so-called Young Warrior Course. And they study till 17-18 years. In fact, it is not until they reach the age of majority that they can mobilize.
Now the Russians are building this youth army in the occupied territories of Ukraine. First in Crimea, then in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. They are very active in Crimea. Their headquarters are in Sevastopol.
Do we have information about such centers in other occupied territories?
Yes. After the occupation of parts of Kherson and Zaporozhye regions, such centers also began to appear there. In particular, in the occupied cities of Genisesk and Skadovsk in the Kherson region. Boys, already 16-18 years old, participate in meetings with Russian soldiers who fought in Ukraine.
Young men from the occupied territories were taken to Moscow to meet the Russians who were fighting on our territory. It seems they are preparing these young men to fight in Ukraine as part of the Russian army. This means that they are trying to prepare Ukrainian children for war against Ukrainians.
Have there been cases like this before?
Yes. For example, a 19-year-old boy from the occupied Donbass. He was a member of the Russian Youth Army in Donetsk and is now a platoon commander in the army of occupation. A Ukrainian child who grew up in the spirit of Russian propaganda. In this one case, we know the person’s name and we’ve seen the photo. But this is not an isolated case. After all, this organization has been operating in the Donbass and Crimea for many years.
How many Ukrainian children are involved in the activities of this organization?
We do not have such data. In total, the Russian youth army is 1 million 300 thousand. Members. But we don’t know how many of them are Ukrainians.
What Ukrainian children learn in the Russian army
Training in the Russian youth army can be divided into two parts: academic and military. What does the military sector include?
There are military competitions that include disassembly and assembly of assault rifles, shooting and obstacle courses. The authors are mostly those who fought in Ukraine. And in a year or two these youths will become the mobilizing reservoir of the aggressors and they are continuing to carry out propaganda activities.
Can the Occupied Territories refuse to participate in this system? And what is the process for recruiting children?
Involvement in this system takes place as part of the curriculum in schools and junior high schools. We know that the history of Ukraine in the occupied territories was replaced by Russian history. Teaching takes place in Russian.
Parents who don’t agree to this can’t do much. After all, they live in occupied territory. And the aggressors create problems for their children at work if they do not enroll them in the system. It is like compulsory passporting. People there are treated like hostages. In other words, children are drawn into the system and brainwashed.
But aren’t children taken away from their parents?
Children usually stay with their parents. But recently, reports surfaced on the organization’s website that children from the Donbass had joined the ranks of the Russian Youth Army in Rostov Oblast. This means that these are children from the occupied territories that ended up in Russia.
“There is no way to avoid brainwashing”
Are the Russians preparing this mobilization reserve more aggressively than before?
They reinforced the military component of training. Training also takes place frequently. We saw records confirming this from the occupied territories of Zaporizhia Oblast, for example, from Melitopol. We saw children jumping over barriers and firing machine guns. There is also evidence of such events in Kherson Oblast. Even if the parents there try to prevent their children from joining this system, they are forced to do so.
In general, the aggression against the Ukrainian identity is very noticeable. For example, corporal punishment was used in the camps for speaking Ukrainian. The Russians make sure that the young man is not trying to remember that he was still Ukrainian a year and a half ago.
In addition, there is propaganda during school lessons, and then propaganda in the youth army. Even the new Russian history textbooks for grades 10-11 have already devoted a so-called chapter. Special action to justify invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainian children in the occupied territories have no chance of escaping this brainwashing.
Does anyone avoid joining this youth organization?
We have evidence that civilians in the occupied part of Kherson Province are unwilling to submit to this. But the only option is to go to the territory controlled by Ukraine. Therefore, parents try to send their children away from the profession. That is the only way.
As far as I know, the EU allows this Russian youth army to…
Ideally, sanctions should be imposed on the entire system. But now we are already at the stage of sanctions against the head of this organization in Sevastopol. Restrictions are already in place in the US and Europe. These include economic sanctions, confiscation of his accounts and a travel ban.
But other occupied territories also have leaders of such headquarters. We are currently working to ensure that they are also subject to sanctions. We are gathering evidence. This is our main task.
Our goal is to prove internationally that the Russian Youth Army is a criminal organization. This is evidenced by the fact that these young men were later involved in war. This is proof that it is a criminal or terrorist organization.
The result of brainwashing children is that they join the army of occupation and participate in the war against Ukraine.
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