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Caught in the act : genocide

As the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia continues, we are privy to exclusive revelations about Maria Lvova-Belova, the mastermind of a systematic policy which writer Jonathan Littell links to Nazi practices rather than to Russia's Soviet past. However, the investigation of the French website Les Humanités proves that, beyond the case of Maria Lvova-Belova and her allure as a patroness, the real instigator of this genocidal policy is none other than Vladimir Putin. But if these are indeed genocidal intentions, Western governments should act without delay to prevent them. We are far from the mark, and, in the meantime, forced "evacuations" are continuing at a steady pace.

It is a gesture, complacently or negligently filmed, we do not know, which is in itself a huge nose-thumbing at the international community. On 11 November, Maria Lvovava-Belova visited the regions of Kherson and Zaporijjia, recently annexed by Russia, under military escort. In footage shot by the Russian armed forces' television company Zvezda, she can be seen arriving at a paediatric center at nightfall, wearing a blue sweatshirt bearing the letter Z. The precise location is not indicated, but the scene seems to be in Henitchesk, a town of 20,000 inhabitants on the Sea of Azov, quite far from the front line.

Maria Lvova-Belova holds a meeting with the managers of the structure, then enters the nursery. The images are furtive, but Maria Lvova-Belova can be seen taking hold of a toddler in a crib and immediately handing him over to a soldier.

Maria Lvova-Belova at a paediatric institute in Henitchesk, Kherson Oblast, on 11 November 2022.

Les humanités have already revealed, as early as 9 September, the role played by Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian Federation's Commissioner for Children's Rights (sic) and her personal involvement in the abduction and deportation of children from Mariupol and the Donbass (Read HERE). But this is the very first time she has been so directly caught "red-handed". The fact that she herself published this video on her Telegram account says a lot about the impunity she thinks she enjoys (1).

Worse still: after confirming at a press conference on 26 October that she had indeed "adopted" a 16-year-old teenager whom she had personally "taken" from Marioupol, this new "staged" abduction is a new slap in the face to international organisations (United Nations, UNICEF, International Red Cross) which, in fact, remain pitifully silent on the topic of child deportations. It is, finally, proof of a total disregard for the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the Geneva Conventions on the Rights of the Child.

Left: Bishop Savva (Tutunov) of Zelenograd. On the right, Maria Lvova-Belova, with Patriarch Kirill, on June 2022 in Penza.

Maria Lvova-Belova did care about the United Nations, however, when she wrote to Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in March to denounce "the large-scale harassment of Russian and Russian-speaking children abroad." In support of her claim, she mentioned a call from a woman who has lived in Italy for 20 years: "her son no longer wants to go to school because he is being bullied because of his Russian origins”. She also mentioned alleged reports (which no one has ever heard of) from "France, Spain, the Czech Republic and Poland [where] the level of Russophobia has become unbelievably high": "an unprecedented anti-Russian campaign has been unleashed and is actively fuelled by the media. This situation requires not only special attention but also resolute condemnation as it is incompatible with the ideals enshrined in the UN Charter and the articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child."

In a logic that aims to make the aggressor look like a victim, this antiphon of "Russophobia" is a leitmotif. In mid-August, the deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate, Bishop Savva (Tutunov) of Zelenograd, who is closely linked to the Russian Orthodox Church in Paris where he studied, denounced the "policy of abolishing Russian culture", which, according to him, has intensified in France, and has targeted children. No concrete evidence, but vague accusations: “a child, a descendant of the fifth generation of Russian emigration”, had “expressed the desire to learn Russian as a second language. The teachers allegedly dissuaded him on the grounds that "all Russians are bad". And in another class, a student "was forced to dress in yellow and blue" in support of Ukraine.

Such ravings are abundantly reproduced by pro-Russian propaganda sites, and while Patriarch Kirill gives the holy blessing to Maria Lvova-Belova (just as he blessed, at the beginning of the war, the Russian missiles that were going to kill civilians in Ukraine), the French government has decided to spare the wealthy Russian Orthodox Church in Paris from any sanctions!

Vladimir Putin: "The Russian state is the guardian and protector of traditional spiritual and moral values, the spiritual heritage of world civilization”

In Ukraine, for the Kremlin, international conventions are irrelevant. Inspired by ultranationalist ideologues such as Timofei Sergeitsev (whose humanities had translated and edited, at the beginning of April, the appalling tribune published by the official agency RIA Novosti), Alexander Dugin, Konstantin Malofeev or Alexander Prokhanov, who have been hammering it in every tone since 2014 and the Maidan revolution, Vladimir Putin considers that Ukraine should never have existed as an independent nation, and therefore, does not exist. The invasion that began on 24 February is not a war but a "special military operation" that is basically a Russian internal affair. In order to make the Russian public believe in this scheme, the groundwork has long been laid by propaganda, aimed at making the Ukrainian nation look like a den of "ukronazis" (with the exception of the brave, heroic, pro-Russian resistance fighters of the Donbass). These "ukronazis" are naturally supported by a decadent "collective West" which is only opposed by the Holy Russia, the last bastion of traditional values, in its imperial grandeur. Human rights" are an invention of this decadent West...

"The Russian state abroad is increasingly seen as the guardian and protector of traditional spiritual and moral values, the spiritual heritage of world civilisation," Putin wrote in a decree signed on 5 September approving the "concept of the humanitarian policy of the Russian Federation abroad". This is no longer imperialism, it is sheer madness; madness that Maria Lvova-Belova naturally hastens to follow when she welcomes the Russian president's call for mobilisation on 21 September, since it is "to protect the brotherly people from the Nazis." "Russia does not abandon its people, especially its children," she added in the Russian press. However, "the children of the Donbass republics are our own blood, and there has long been no border between Russia and the region. The children of these republics are our own!”

It is therefore hardly surprising to find Maria Lvova-Belova, chief orchestrator of the deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia, at the forefront of another struggle: recently, she has been very active in ensuring that the State Duma adopts, in addition to legislation designed to further repress all forms of homosexual propaganda, provisions aimed at banning, more broadly, anything that is "contrary to traditional values”.

At the forefront of these traditional values is of course absolute patriotism. Maria Lvova-Belova's latest proposal is to re-establish military training in all schools in the Russian Federation: "It is absolutely necessary to revive the spirit of patriotism" and "to create heroes for children to follow”. And for those deported from Mariupol and Donbass who are reluctant to spontaneously approve of the Russian spirit and nationality, a short stay in a re-education camp should be enough to bring them back into line. Maria Lvova-Belova is obviously not talking about re-education camps, even in Russia, as this would be bad form. She is talking about "health camps" where the children will be monitored by teams of psychologists and psychiatrists. But communicating all this to UNICEF and the International Red Cross (who are not asking for anything)? We should not exaggerate.

Deported teenagers from Donbass sent to a "military-patriotic" camp in Chechnya", 17 November 2022.

The masks, however, are falling off quite quickly. In consultation with Ramzan Kadyrov, a first group of "difficult" adolescents has just been sent, until 18 November, to a "military-patriotic" camp in Chechnya! (2) At this rate, the older ones could soon be sent to Ukraine... to fight against their own country...

Ramzan Kadyrov and Maria Lvova-Belova

Is this the only prospect that makes the Orthodox Maria Lvova-Belova and the Islamist Ramzan Kadyrov laugh heartily and in open camaraderie? The latter's wife has just been designated by Putin as a "mother-heroine" (a "distinction" resurrected from the Soviet era) for having given birth to eleven kids. In the meantime, Kadyrov secretly married a second, much younger woman, whom he met in a beauty contest when she was not yet 15 (3). Never mind that polygamy hardly conforms to the "traditional values" that Maria Lvova-Belova claims to defend; God's ways are inscrutable, and Kadyrov has always proclaimed that Islamic law is superior to Russian law. So, getting along with a murderous barbouze who shouts Allahu Akbar twenty times a day is not a problem; on the other hand, imagining for a quarter of a second that Ukrainians, those "little Russians", could be infatuated with democracy, is frankly intolerable.

Cuddly toys brought by Maria Lvova-Belova to a boarding school in the Donetsk region

Maria Lvova-Belova or the art of plush

But since it seems that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, even if they are coupled with the most extraordinary cynicism, Maria Lvova-Belova is using the guise of a charitable lady to promote her action to the Russian public. Omitting to say that without the incessant bombing that has turned the city of Mariupol into a gaping ruin, there would not have been so many human tragedies, she presents herself as the saviour of children transformed into orphans. And those who have been abusively separated from their parents in the sinister "filtration camps" become children "deprived of parental care".

The modus operandi is well established: each time Maria Lvova-Belova went in person to the Donbass to empty orphanages and boarding schools, she dressed up in the trappings of a "humanitarian mission", arriving with her arms full of gifts, clothes, cakes and, above all, cuddly toys for the little ones. Huge, ostentatious stuffed animals. It's a give and take : I give you a cuddly toy, you give me your freedom. The stuffed animal is a lure, similar to the sweets that paedophile rapists offer to small children at the school gate to get them to follow them. Maria Lvova-Belova is one of those people: underneath her always smiling appearance (as a former pop singer who failed in her career), there is the soul of a fearsome predator. In early October, as 234 children rounded up in the Donbass were about to land on a military airfield in the Moscow region, she said she felt "inexpressible excitement and tears of joy”. Stealing and deporting children excites her...

Code name: "The day after tomorrow". In the name of this "humanitarian mission", Maria Lvova-Belova enlisted the help of the Russian Red Cross, but not only: at the beginning of October, at the very moment when 76 additional children were to be deported from the Luhansk region, the International Committee of the Red Cross agreed to be accredited to the authorities of this self-proclaimed "republic" (4).

Maria Lvova-Belova

But who is Maria Lvova-Belova anyway?

It is not easy to trace her biography, which she has largely shaped to measure. Born in Penza on 25 October 1984, she confides on her Telegram account: "I remember that our large family was on the verge of poverty in the turbulent 1990s. We didn't have enough money, even for food.” A family on the brink of poverty? After studying engineering, his father, Alexei Lvov-Belov (pictured below), pursued an artistic career.

According to the Penza News agency, in the 1990s, he began working as a teacher at the Penza School of Culture and Art, and then directed various pop and jazz ensembles, even participating in Russian and international festivals and competitions. In 2009 he was appointed artistic director of the Penza Regional Philharmonic Society, and since 2014 he has been artistic director of the Krasnodar Music Theatre. At first glance, this is not the typical profile of a starving-lambda-Russian citizen, but by referring to the "turbulent 1990s", Maria Lvova-Belova is fully in line with the rejection of the Yeltsin years which founded Putin's accession to power.

She still confides that she "decided from a very young age that she wanted to help orphans and disabled people". A "vocation" that was born after seeing an abandoned child for the first time as a teenager; she then "promised herself to help orphaned children in the future.” That's nice, except that here again, the reality seems rather contrived. Because the young Maria Lvova-Belova is first of all going for a musical career, in the footsteps of her father. In the college of culture and arts where her father was teaching, she chose orchestral conducting, no less, and continued her training at the State Academy of Culture and Arts in Samara, from which she graduated with a conductor diploma... which independent Russian journalists have never managed to find the slightest trace of. This is all the more embarrassing because, according to Article 4 of the Russian Federal Law "on Commissioners for Children's Rights in the Russian Federation", a civil servant at this level is normally required to have a higher education.

That same year of suspicious graduation (2002), she met Pavel Kogelman, a computer programmer, whom she married the following year. Their eldest daughter was born two years later, followed by a son and a third child in 2010, accompanied by four adopted children the same year. Maria Lvova-Belova may not have given up on becoming a conductor, but it is in the social and charitable fields that she begins to take the baton and put her business sense to music.

In 2014, she created her first Foundation, Quartier de Louis (in homage, it seems, to Louis Armstrong): a rehabilitation and social adaptation project designed to prepare graduates from orphanages and boarding schools with different levels of disability for an independent life. In the meantime, "Louis Neighbourhood" was expanded with three new facilities, including "New Shores", a country manor house "for the rehabilitation and adaptation of residents", and "Veronika's House", a boarding house for children from orphanages with severe disabilities, which was to become the spearhead of Maria Lvova-Belova's public action.

At the same time, Lvova-Belova entered politics, first in the Public Chamber of the Penza region, and from 2017 in the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation. This greatly facilitated the public support she needed to finance her private institutions... Distinguished in 2020 among the "Leaders of Russia", she met Vladimir Putin, who appointed her in November 2021 as Commissioner of the Russian Federation for Children's Rights.

Sasha Seliverstova, who died on 12 October in the "“Veronika’s House", one of the institutions managed by Maria Lvova-Belova

In the meantime, a first setback had tarnished the fine reputation of Veronika's House. In the first year of operation, Ilmir Valiev, an unemployed wheelchair user, died in the clinical hospital in Penza after missing two successive dialysis sessions. Journalists investigating the case found that he had been unable to pay for a taxi to the hospital, as his entire pension was used to pay off a loan that Maria Lvova-Belova had forced him to take out to pay for his stay at Veronika’s House. Other residents reported that this practice of forced loans was almost systematic.

Other suspicious deaths have occurred in institutions run by Maria Lvova-Belova. The latest, on 12 October 2022, involved a disabled girl, Sasha Seliverstova, whose case had been widely publicised three years earlier for a fundraiser. Observers were surprised by the total indifference shown by Maria Lvova-Belova to Sasha's death. The reason, perhaps, for this silence? The independent website Bloknot reveals that an altercation had taken place between the now Russian Commissioner for Children's Rights and the disabled girl: the latter had demanded, in vain, fruit that was essential to her diet. Did the girl die from this lack of food? We will probably never know.

But as the Bloknot investigation writes: "Of course, it is possible that Maria Lvova-Belova is a true activist, driven by a desire to do good, and that the tragedies associated with her are just an unfortunate coincidence. But it could also be the other way around: she is a cold-hearted young woman for whom the people around her are merely tools to achieve personal career, political or even financial goals. Even the people closest to her are no exception, including the foster children and disabled people covered by the "Louis' Neighbourhood" and "Veronika's House" projects in her home town of Penza."

This “kind patroness”, whose husband was ordained an Orthodox priest in 2019, and who herself received the blessing of a representative of Patriarch Kirill, is in any case at the forefront of organising the deportation of children from Ukraine and their adoption in Russia. The hasty annexation of the regions of Kherson and Zaporizhia, in addition to Donetsk and Luhansk, even frees up miserable administrative obstacles: the borders. In the aftermath of Putin's annexation speech, she was pleased that her "work", so far small-scale, "can become systematic".

The latest information from the Kherson and Zaporizhia regions unfortunately confirms this trend. In the Kherson region, prior to the liberation of the city by Ukrainian forces, approximately 300 children were taken from their families under the false pretext of offering them a week's holiday, from which they never returned. On 12 November, a further 52 children were taken from a children's hospital to an unspecified 'safe' area in Russia as part of a 'medical relocation' programme. And this is far from over: Russian officials in Zaporizhia Oblast recently stated that the transfer of more than 40,000 children is still planned for the coming weeks!

On the Russian side, the "adoption machine" seems to be experiencing some failures. Despite the efforts made by Marie Lvova-Belova in conjunction with a certain number of regional governors, and despite the emoluments offered to them, candidate families for adoption do not seem to be jostling for position. In an effort to inspire people to adopt, prominent Russian bloggers began circulating a multi-part documentary series on 9 November featuring Ukrainian children from the Donbass adopted by Russian families. One of these videos shows a teenager "evacuated" after being injured in Mariupol, now employed... in a military repair shop!

A single referent: Vladimir Putin

Whatever the particular zeal deployed by Maria Lvova-Belova to implement this mass deportation of Ukrainian children, she is "only" the conductor of a deliberate strategy, which was elaborated long before her nomination as the Russian Federation's Commissioner for Children's Rights. As Ukrainian lawyer Kateryna Rashevska points out, "Russia has been illegally moving and then adopting Ukrainian children since the occupation of Crimea in 2014" (Read HERE). And even before the Russian invasion on 24 February, the deportation structures, starting with the filtration camps, were planned and organised. Children are the first victims of a policy based on the obsession hammered out by certain ultra-nationalist ideologues, and taken up by Vladimir Putin: Ukraine, as an independent nation, should never have existed, and therefore, does not exist. Ukraine is nothing more than "little Russia" and must be brought back into the fold. Its cultural heritage must be destroyed and plundered; its children must be "Russified". Maria Lvova-Belova says nothing else: the children rounded up in Ukraine are "back home : the children of these republics are ours", she told the Tass agency.

Maria Lvova-Belova has only one superior: Vladimir Putin himself. And it is to him that she reports directly on her deportation.

Vladimir Putin receives Maria Lvova-Belova in the Kremlin on 9 March 2022.

On 9 March 2022, only a fortnight after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Commissioner for Children's Rights was received by the President of Russia. The script of their meeting (probably partly redacted) is published by the Kremlin website. "It goes without saying that your work is one of the most important activities," Vladimir Putin says at the outset. Maria Lvova-Belova specifies that she wishes to "coordinate the strategic aspects of our work with you, my immediate superior". She informed the President that "1,090 orphans from various shelters have arrived [in Russia]. Some could be put in temporary accommodation, while those with Russian citizenship could be settled permanently." "- Why only those with Russian citizenship? This should apply regardless of their citizenship," Vladimir Putin replies. Maria Lvova-Belova objects that "there are legal reservations to take into account". "- Just tell me what they are, and we will work to remove these obstacles," concludes Putin.

At the end of May, he signed the decree granting Russian citizenship to children deported from Ukraine, making their adoption possible.

Maria Lvova-Belova has benefited from the services of the Russian Ministry of Defence on several occasions, notably when, on 7 October last year, 234 children rounded up in Donbass were transported aboard three military aircraft that delivered their "cargo" on the tarmac of the Chkalovsky military airfield in Moscow.

But Vladimir Putin is the only one to whom Maria Lvova-Belova reports directly on the mission she has been entrusted with, and to whom the Russian president pays the greatest attention. On 25 October, she met Vladimir Putin again and explained to him an unexpected difficulty: some of the families asked to adopt these children were aware that they too could be prosecuted for complicity in war crimes. The next day, Lvova-Belova gave a press conference where she confided that she herself had adopted a teenager from Marioupol (a way of inspiring confidence in hesitant families?).

Finally, on 11 November, Maria Lvova-Belova indicated on her Telegram account: "On the instructions of the president [Vladimir Putin], we are working in the new Russian territories". It couldn't be clearer: Putin is, in person, the one giving the order.

This is far from being a mere detail. The multiple cases of war crimes that Russia has been guilty of in Ukraine are already more numerous than an array of medals on a general's chest! But from a legal point of view, it will not always be easy for an International Criminal Court to establish that the chain of command goes directly back to the Russian president. How can it be proved that Putin personally gave the order for the systematic practice of rape and torture, for example? In the case of the deportations and adoptions of children, the evidence is there: you only have to copy Maria Lvova-Belova's posts on her Telegram account!

And this war crime has a name: genocide, as Sylvie Rollet, president of the association Pour l'Ukraine, pour leur liberté et la nôtre (For Ukraine, for their Freedom and Ours), reminded us during the press conference co-organised by this association between Paris and Kyiv on 15 November.

Moreover, according to the writer Jonathan Littell, in the same press conference on 15 November, these deportations of children have more to do with precedents linked to Nazism than to Russia's Soviet past, where the deportations of populations, no less dramatic, were of a different nature.

Press conference co-organised by the association For Ukraine, for their freedom and ours, on 15 November 2022 (2 h 30)

Crime of genocide

As a recent report by The New Lines Institute and The Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, "Russia bears state responsibility for violations of Article II and Article III (c) of the Genocide Convention to which it is bound. The New Lines Institute and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre further point out that this "very serious risk of genocide (...) triggers the obligation of prevention of States under Article I of the Genocide Convention."

The two NGOs brought together a team of lawyers and genocide experts, a second group of open source intelligence (OSINT) investigators, and linguists who were able to use the many primary sources that this war has already created. The resulting 47-page report (downloadable PDF below) outlines in great detail why there are "reasonable grounds to conclude that Russia is responsible for direct and public incitement to commit genocide, and genocide based on an intent to destroy in part the Ukrainian national group. And in this context, "the forced transfer of Ukrainian children to Russia is a genocidal act within the meaning of Article II (e) of the Genocide Convention."

An Independent Legal Analysis of the Russian Federation's Breaches of the Genocide Convention in Ukraine and the Duty to Prevent - New Lines Institute. Download PDF

An Independent Legal Analysis of the Russian Federation's Breaches of the Genocide Convent
Download • 1.02MB

Finally, The New Lines Institute and The Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Centre recall that "the Genocide Convention imposes a minimum legal obligation on States to each take reasonable steps to contribute to the prevention of genocide, an obligation that extends extraterritorially and applies regardless of whether a State's actions are sufficient to prevent genocide." Strictly interpreting this warning, almost all European Heads of State and Government could eventually be prosecuted for failing to implement measures to prevent genocide. And the first to appear will be Emmanuel Macron who, in order not to "humiliate" Vladimir Putin, refused on 14 April to use the expression "genocide", precisely because "recognising this crime would entail a duty to assist"... Which is therefore clearly called a refusal to assist an endangered people. It is easy to understand why it is useless to expect the Élysée Palace to take any position on the subject of child deportations, which is therefore a form of blank cheque given to Vladimir Putin and the conductor Maria Lvova-Belova...

Jean-Marc Adolphe

(To be continued in the next few days: a list of names of personalities who have contributed to the genocidal policy of deportation/adoption of Ukrainian children in Russia)


(1). "Being included in the sanctions lists is an honour reserved for heroes (Попадание в санкционные списки - это как звезда героя)," Maria Lvova-Belova said in early November. "We will continue our mission. Sanctions will not stop us."

(2). The camp is called "Gorny Klyuch" (Горный ключ), it is located on the outskirts of the village of Serzhen-Yurt in the Shalinsky district, and the operation is called "Power of the Caucasus" ("Сила Кавказа").

(3). Now 30 years old, Fatima Khazuyeva owns a palace in Grozny, right across the street from Kadyrov's official residence, and three luxury flats in Moscow, with an estimated total value of four million euros... The Chechen blogger Tumso Abdurakhmanov, who made the revelations, was the subject of an assassination attempt in February 2020 in Sweden, where he had taken refuge. The investigation revealed that the two perpetrators of the assassination attempt, Ruslan Mamaev and his accomplice Elmira Shapiaeva, had been paid €60,000 to carry out the crime, which had been prepared in Grozny and Moscow. The instigators, who were perfectly identified, Kadyrov himself and the president of the Chechen parliament, Magomed Daudov, were never worried.

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