International police forces track down missing Ukrainian children

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Driebergen – Detectives from the International Crimes Team (TIM) of the National Investigation and Interventions Unit (LO) of the police have, together with international colleagues, traced the whereabouts of eight missing Ukrainian children. The children were probably deported during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It was a joint action organized by TIM and Europol. The information has been transferred to Ukraine for further investigation. More than sixty detectives and researchers from twenty-three different police services and six non-governmental organizations from Australia, Ukraine and the Netherlands, among others, participated in the action.

Innovative working methods

Digital investigators worked in teams to search online open sources for information that could lead to the exact locations of the missing and possibly deported children. By using innovative digital methods, the partnership was able to share the whereabouts of the children with the Ukrainian police in eight cases. For example, they use advanced facial recognition to find recent images of the children on the internet. Experts in the field of ‘geolocating’, determining the exact location of photos or videos based on satellite images, could then see where the photos were taken. They found this out based on special, specific details in the images. Network analyzes were used to determine whether multiple children were in the same location. The head of Europol’s Liaison Office for Ukraine agreed on the importance of digital investigations in the context of human rights violations in Ukraine: ‘Because there is no access to the Russian Federation or the Belarusian territories, the analysis of online open sources remains one of the few instruments that can lead us to these children.’

Succession Ukrainian police

The TIM has provided all information to the Ukrainian authorities. For the safety of the children, their identity and whereabouts must remain confidential. However, we can assume that they were forcibly moved into territory occupied by Russia and used for Russian propaganda purposes. Like many others, children have been kidnapped since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Without a trace

The primary goal of the joint action was to trace the children who had so far gone missing. It is now up to the Ukrainian police to inform the relatives and possibly start a criminal investigation into the perpetrators of the deportation. The Ukrainian liaison for Europol agrees: ‘Ukrainian investigators will further analyze the findings and use them within the relevant criminal proceedings. The ultimate goal is to bring our children home to their families.”

International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court (ICC) previously issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Putin for war crimes in Ukraine. The ICC cited the deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia as the main reason for this. Independent researchers already established that there were at least six thousand children involved.

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