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Russia’s Militarization of Ukrainian Children as the Threat of National Security

Russia’s Militarization of Ukrainian Children as the Threat of National Security

Systematically Russian propaganda brainwashes the minds of Ukrainian children on the temporarily occupied territories by means of a system of military and patriotic upbringing. The aim of the system includes not just a propaganda of the “Russian world” but also shaping a distinct image of an enemy represented by Ukraine, the West and Ukraine as a part of the Western world.

In order to better understand the current situation in the context of the Russian-Ukrainian war I would like to draw a parallel with ISIS and its methods of recruiting children and teenagers. It is worth mentioning that the main organizations’ feature is an active usage of social media. According to the analysis by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), terrorists and militarized extremist groups as well as armed groups in general gain a significant economic benefit by recruiting children.

The key point of children’s role in the above-mentioned groups is that their work may not be paid off and less food is required for their survival. Moreover, changes in forms of warfare and prevalence of small arms have shortened differences between children and adults in effectiveness of the use of arms. Besides, it is much easier to intimidate children and control them physically and psychologically. Thus, ISIS makes “investments in a future generation” by recruiting children.

37 cadet children aged 7-16 who are the members of military and patriotic club “Kordon Tarkhankut” lived 5 days under military schedule

Both Russian government and extremist organizations realize that it is super easy to shape the image of Ukraine as a major enemy in the minds of children. We need to understand that it is a work for a future perspective: Ukrainian children who are brainwashed by Russian propaganda will mature and bring up their own children in the atmosphere of hatred towards their home country due to the fact that Ukraine is being demonized and becomes an enemy for its own citizens, a foe to shoot.

The advantage of ORDLO and Russia now is that they control the territories of certain districts and use educational establishments as platforms for ideological indoctrination of children, attracting and encouraging them to join militant ranks.

Let us recall a case of “Blue whale” that had started as a child’s play and ended in tragedy. Russian propaganda was also involved in the popularization of this game. However, its goal was to demonize the Internet.

If we look at least several examples of Russian propaganda, we will understand that the propagandists use the KGB tactics and it hasn’t changed since Soviet totalitarianism, including: giving arms to children, involving them to military and patriotic clubs, holding military and patriotic festivals and doing one’s best to cultivate hatred towards Ukraine.

Children of the military and patriotic club “Yunarmia” in the “LPR” visited the military and patriotic festival

The current goal of Russia is to involve children to join the military units. Russians are building dangerous planform for bringing up the future suicide bombers. Unfortunately we do not have any guarantees that religious component will not be included in this system. Afterwards Russia’s hybrid war might be strengthened by a terrorism element. Sadly that Ukraine will lose time and opportunities and will not even realise that a generation of terrorists have grown up on its territory.

Our Western partners actively elaborate steps to counter terrorism. For instance, the Biden administration published the National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism on 15th June 2021. In order to counter domestic terrorism the US Department of Homeland Security finances, implements and plans activities related to improving media literacy and critical thinking skills as mechanisms to strengthen user’s resilience to mis/disinformation online for domestic audience. Meanwhile the US Department of State and USAID carry similar activities worldwide.

The other document, namely in the National Strategy for Counterterrorism of the United States of America of October 2018, states that in order to prevent terrorist recruiting activity the US will demonstrate that terrorists’ statements are fake and they do not provide any effective solution. A separate priority activity is to strength the civil society’s role in preventing terrorism. Moreover, as a separate direction in countering terrorists the US recognizes the use of cyberspace as a global platform to cover their violent ideology, to fundraise, radicalize, recruit and mobilize people for violence. Ukraine should adopt the above-mentioned U.S. tactic.

Militarization of Ukrainian children on the occupied territories is an issue of national security. The Security Service of Ukraine should deal with it and should become one of the most important issues at the Crimean platform. Meanwhile the President, the head of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, The Security Service of Ukraine and the ombudsman should scream that Russia must leave our children alone!