Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian “savior” who deported children from Ukraine

Vladimir Putin’s Commissioner for the Rights of the Child, Maria Lvova-Belova, the regime’s conservative muse, is one of the main faces of Russia’s practice of deporting Ukrainian children for adoption in Russia. The portrait of the woman who made the war in Ukraine one of her recipes for fame.

A blonde woman hugs a large teddy bear in an airport corridor. In a flowery dress, she knelt beside a teenager in a wheelchair. Leaning over a blind boy, he helps him hang a wreath on the Christmas tree. On her Telegram channel and on Russian television, Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s president’s commissioner of children’s rights since 2021, showcases her good work.

In Russia as in Ukraine, he flies to help children. And deported hundreds of people, forcing them to leave the annexed territory of Ukraine to settle in a foreign country to them, Russia.

Conservative inspiration

With a scarf on her head and a collar buttoned to her chin, this mother of ten – five natural, five adopted, including a Ukrainian – thus plays off her angelic and maternal gestures.

Together with her husband, a computer scientist turned pope, she also has thirteen disabled children. They are housed in charities he founded himself, some of which are accused by the Russian media of embezzlement.

Rarely in Russia, where birth rates are falling, this large family of businesswomen specializing in charity is ideal for United Russia, Vladimir Putin’s party and for the Orthodox Church. A real asset to the regime, the family welcomed their twenty-third child in the spring, Filip, a Ukrainian teenager from Mariupol.

>> To read also: Demographic decline in Russia: “Putin has no other way out but to win” in Ukraine

Because we must not allow ourselves to be swayed: far from her modest conservative inspirations, Maria Lvova-Belova played an important role in the deportation of Ukrainian children, whom she “saved” by sending them to Russia.

Thousands of Ukrainian children are missing

Photographed on planes, trains or at bus stations, she proudly declares on social networks and in state media: thanks to her, hundreds – if not thousands, it is difficult to determine their number – Ukrainian children are “protected” by greater Russia . Don’t talk to him about “deportation” but “rescue”; and prefer “guardianship” to “adoption”.

Coming from orphanages, hospitals, social centers or foster homes in the annexed areas, orphaned or separated from their families by the fighting, these children were offered to Russian families, with payments from the State.

Completely against international law and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the practice was condemned at the International Criminal Court in December by the French association “For Ukraine, for their freedom and ours”. The NGO Amnesty International also pointed to “war crimes” and possible “crimes against humanity”, in a report published last November.

Far from being hidden, however, the deportation of children feeds Russian propaganda and furthers the “de-Ukrainization” envisioned by Vladimir Putin, who passed a law in May 2022 to facilitate granting Russian citizenship to Ukrainian citizens.

Russia thus claims to have hosted five million refugees from the annexed territories, while Ukraine claims early December that 13,000 children have been deported to Russia, although it is difficult to estimate the actual number.

Tears, balloons and rehab centers

On Maria Lvova-Belova’s Telegram account, the videos follow one another. Children from Donetsk and Donbass landed in Russia and were welcomed by their “new families”, with lots of tears of joy and balloons. Their first names were frequently changed, and they were given new Russian passports in place of their old identities.

To facilitate their “integration”, “re-education” and “psychological rehabilitation” centers have been opened in Moscow, Rostov and Tuaspé. Others welcome, in Belarus, a thousand children from Donbass, aged 6 to 15, to allow them to “rest and recuperate”, according to Belarusian website Belta.

They receive “treatments” there, but also “daily lessons in Russian language and history,” explained Maria Lvova-Belova to her customers. Steps are necessary, because adaptation sometimes takes time. Initially, he said, Filip showed “some negativity”. He insisted on singing the Ukrainian national anthem and spoke of his participation in demonstrations in support of the army. But his behavior has changed. He is now “thankful” to the “great Russian family” who saved him.

Dazzling career

A true boon, the war in Ukraine allowed this former guitar teacher to continue his illustrious career in Russian institutions. In 2008, she founded, with Anna Kuznetsova, her predecessor as Commissioner for Children’s Rights, a charity, Blagovest, in the Penza region. The two women shared the fact of being mothers of several children and close to the Orthodox Church.

Following in the footsteps of her partner, who joined United Russia in 2014 to be appointed child rights commissioner in 2016, Maria Lvova-Belova joined the ruling party in 2019, while her husband became pope.

From there, it all followed: she quickly joined the party’s general board, before winning the landmark “Leader of Russia” competition in 2020. Appointed a senator in the process, she was eventually appointed commissioner of children’s rights by Vladimir Putin, at the end of Anna Kuznetsova’s mandate .

A “fragile woman”, according to Vladimir Putin

Since then, the war in Ukraine has come to the fore. Sanctioned by the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, she was publicly defended in September by Vladimir Putin, who said: “This fragile woman alone did more for children and peace than any disgraced American.” who wrote the sanction list.”.

Excited, the 38-year-old woman has no intention of stopping on such a good path. After visiting each annexed territory during the fall, in 2023 it is planned to open a “youth center” there to “give them special attention”… And to deploy teams to meet with “street children” from the annexed territories.

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