Are orphaned Ukrainian children being flown to Russia to be adopted?

Introduction

Occasionally you will come across some video online that catches your attention and suddenly you want to know more about it. It happened today as I spotted a reddit post sharing a 1-minute video claiming to depict orphan children being taken from Ukraine to Russia “for their own good“. I have previously investigated and written a report on the forced deportation of Ukrainian civilians to Russia so this is something that I was definitely interested in checking out.


The Video

Below is the screenshot of the video posted to the Ukraine subreddit on September 17, 2022. In case the post gets deleted, here is an archived version.
The footage starts with a clip of an aeroplane with the Russian flag allegedly carrying dozens of Ukrainian children. Based on their size and appearance I would say that their ages range between 5 and 12. The footage shows them being escorted out of the aeroplane accompanied by a few adults. The video then pans to a woman who claims that “120 children have arrived on the territory of Moscow“. She adds that the group will be spread out to 13 regions of Russia and there are already plans for a next batch of children.

Screenshot of the reddit post showing a video of allegedly Ukrainian orphans being taken to Russia.

Questions

After watching the video I was interested in finding out the answer to a few questions:

  • Is this footage recent?
  • Are the children really Ukrainian?
  • Are they really orphans?
  • Are they really being taken to Russia?

Basically I just wanted to know if the post caption and information on this video were reliable.
For that we only need to use search engines.


Searching for an image

The first thing I did was notice that there was a logo at the top right of the video. This probably indicates that it comes from a news agency so let’s see if we can find information on it.

Screenshot of the video. Red arrow points at the logo in the corner.

I took a screenshot of the logo and did an image reverse search. I always go with the top-3 search engines: Yandex, Google, Bing. The results are always vastly different and if one doesn’t catch it the other one usually does.

Yandex was, as expected, the best one and below is what I got on the image reverse search results. I did not even bother clicking any of the results on the left because I immediately spotted the “iz.ru” on the right. That tells me it is a Russian website so I can just write it on the address bar.

Yandex reverse image search results.

Going to “iz.ru” confirms that this is indeed the place that I am looking for as the logo and colour scheme is everywhere. Now we just need to find this story about the Ukrainian orphans being taken to Russia.
I don’t like wasting time scrolling around a website, especially as I can’t read Russian and I do not know if this even recent footage, which means it could be literally anywhere.
So let’s get creative.


Searching in a website

We know what we are looking for: Ukrainian children being taken to Russia; and we know where we are looking for it: iz.ru website. We also know that the website is, as expected, written in Russian so let’s quickly jump to Google Translate.
I like to keep it simple so let’s translate what we know from the video. I went with “ukrainian orphans”, “airplane”, and “moscow”. I always separate keywords / key phrases in different lines so that Google does not attempt to translate it as a complete sentence and mess it up. The result of the translation can be seen below.

Google Translate results for “ukrainian orphans”, “airplane”, and “moscow”.

I don’t want to search for “украинские сироты самолет г. Москва” as it would give me results from anywhere on the clearnet. I want Google to just provide me with results from the iz.ru website as that is my target location. For that I have to specify in the search bar by adding a “site:iz.ru” (no space between the “site:” and the “iz.ru”).

The full search term will then be “украинские сироты самолет г. Москва site:iz.ru”.
Below you can see how all the search results provided by Google are from the iz.ru website.

Google search results using the translated terms and site limitation.

So let’s just click on the first one since it says it was published “1 day ago”.


The news article

I can’t read Russian so I just use my very handy Google Translate chrome extension to translate the entire page to English.

The news piece title says “Children’s Ombudsman of Lvov-Belova brought more than 100 orphans from the DPR to Russia” and has a photo of the same lady we saw in the video. A quick google search with the name “Lvov-Belova” will also provide extra evidence that this is the same person. Below is a comparison between the woman seen in the reddit video (left) with a photo at the top of the IZ news article about the Ukrainian children being taken to Moscow (right).

In fact, if you keep on scrolling the news article you will see three videos. The first one where Ms Maria Llov-Belova talks to the camera as seen on the reddit footage, the second of the plane arriving with the children, and the third of what looks to be a press conference.
The news article claims that these are 125 Ukrainian orphans, between the ages of 3.5 and 17 years old, some disabled. According to the text they were taken from the Donetsk People’s Republic, and flown to Moscow on an aeroplane by the Russian Aerospace Force on September 16, 2022. They were already given Russian citizenship and will be placed under guardianship of Russian families “in the near future“.


Extra information

Out of pure curiosity we can also check some of the footage details to confirm the information provided in the article and videos. The news piece claims that the Ukrainian children arrived on an aeroplane by the Russian Aerospace Forces. Several clips from the second video provide useful details that can confirm that. You can see a couple of aircraft identifiers such as the aeroplane model (Ty-154M / Tu-154M) indicating that this is a Tupolev Tu-154M, and the registration number “RA-85123” if you want to (attempt to) track it down. You can also see the children being greeted at the door by men in uniform. A google image reverse search of the insignia on their arms reveals that it is, indeed, a patch worn by the Russian airforce personnel.


The answers

Now that we have found where the video clips originally came from, and we have read the information on the news article we can answer the questions we had at the beginning, to the best of our knowledge:

  • Is this footage recent? – Yes, from September 12, 2022.
  • Are the children really Ukrainian? – Yes, from the Donetsk region.
  • Are they really orphans? – Yes, allegedly.
  • Are they really being taken to Russia? – Yes, Moscow initially.

Conclusion

This small search concludes that, unfortunately, it is true and orphan children are being taken from Ukrainian territory into Russia to be naturalised and adopted into Russian families. According to the article, many of the orphans had already been separated from their siblings.
This is not the first group of children to be forcefully evacuated into Russian territory and, unfortunately, it won’t be the last.

Thank you for reading!
~Sofia.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: