Claims of Russia kidnapping Ukrainian children throughout the region

Amid the war in Ukraine, children have been caught in the middle, with claims of some being kidnapped and ABC News’ Britt Clennett reports on the fight to reunite some of those families.
8:23 | 11/23/22

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Transcript for Claims of Russia kidnapping Ukrainian children throughout the region
 NARROWLY MISSING THE OFFICERS IN THE PROCESS. FORTUNATELY EVERYONE INVOLVED IS OKAY. NEXT TO THE WAR IN UKRAINE, WE OFTEN FOCUS ON THE DEATH AND DESTRUCTION CAUSED BY WAR, BUT FOR THE CHILDREN CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE, IT HAS MEANT A LIFE OF DESTRUCTION AND FEAR. KIDS BEING ORPHANED OR DEPORTED FROM RUSSIA AWAY FROM THEIR HOMES, AND THEIR COUNTRY. TONIGHT, WE EXPLORE THOSE STORIES OF SEPARATION. BRETT CLINIC HAS MORE ON THE FIGHT TO REUNITE SOME OF THOSE FAMILIES. >> -- THEY ARE JUST LIKE ANY OTHER KIDS. PLAYFUL AND FULL OF JOY. BUT THESE UKRAINIAN CHILDREN WHO LIVE WITH THEIR ADORING FATHER WERE ONLY RECENTLY BEING PREPARED FOR ADOPTION IN MOSCO. >> I SPOKE TO THAT AND THEY SAID THEY ARE MAKING US CHOOSE IN ORDER TO BE SENT TO A FOSTER FAMILY OR AN ORPHANAGE. THEY WERE HURRYING ME. >> DO YOU FEEL LIKE THEY WERE PUSHING YOU TO BE ADOPTED INTO RUSSIAN FAMILIES? >> YES. >> YES? YOU FELT THAT FROM THEM? >> YES. I KNEW THAT THEY WERE TRYING TO FORCE ME INTO A FOSTER FAMILY. THEY TOLD ME THAT IT WOULD BE WORSE IN AN ORPHANAGE. BUT THAT ALWAYS SAID TEMPORARY. >> BUT THIS IS WHAT THE PUTIN REGIME WANTS YOU TO SEE. HELPLESS UKRAINIAN ORPHANS GREETED WITH TEDDY BEARS BY LOVING RUSSIAN COUPLES READY TO TAKE THEM IN. IN REALITY, RUSSIA IS DEPORTING THOUSANDS OF CHILDREN OUT OF UKRAINE FROM AREAS IT INVADED AND RAISING THEM AS RUSSIAN. ACCORDING TO THE UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT, MORE THAN 11,000 CHILDREN HAVE BEEN TAKEN SO FAR. ONLY AROUND 100 HAVE MADE IT BACK. SOME ARE ORPHANS, SOME OF THEM ORPHANED BECAUSE OF THIS WAR, WHILE OTHERS HAVE PARENTS BACK IN UKRAINE, ANXIOUSLY WAITING FOR THEIR RETURN. -- HUMANITARIAN LAWYER INVESTIGATING WAR CRIMES AND UKRAINE. >> THE REMOVAL OF CHILDREN IS ONE OF THE SPECIFIED ACTS, WHICH NECESSARY TO BE ESTABLISHED IN ORDER TO PROVE GENOCIDAL INTENT. THE TRANSFERRING OF CHILDREN FROM ONE GROUP TO ANOTHER. AND THIS IS A VERY CLEAR EXAMPLE OF THAT. >> SCIENCE POINT TOWARDS A SYSTEMATIC STRATEGY, AIMED AT ABSORBING THE STOLEN CHILDREN INTO RUSSIA. NOW, BASED IN LATVIA, HIS FATHER SHOWS US EVIDENCE OF HIS KIDS ABDUCTION. IT IS MARKED WITH AN OFFICIAL STAMP FROM THE RUSSIAN-BACKED SELF PROCLAIMED DONETSK PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC. >> HE IS SHOWING A LIST OF 31 KIDS, AN OFFICIAL LIST OF 41 KIDS TAKEN FROM MARIUPOL TO RUSSIA. >> HE WAS SEPARATED FROM HIS CHILDREN AT A BORDER CHECKPOIN. JUST AS THE FAMILY WERE TRYING TO FLEE THE BESIEGED MARIUPOL, IMPRISONED ON SUSPICION OF MILITARY LEAKS, HE FINALLY WAS RELEASED AFTER 45 DAYS TO THE SHOCK OF HIS LIFE. HIS CHILDREN, DON. >> TRANSLATOR: THEY SAID YOUR BIRTH CERTIFICATES HAVE BEEN SENT TO MOSCOW WITH YOUR CHILDREN. AS FAR AS I KNEW, I WOULDN'T SEE THEM AGAIN FOR HOWEVER MANY DAYS. OF COURSE I WAS HYSTERICAL. >> AFTER A FRANTIC SEARCH, HE MADE HEADWAY WITH THE HELP OF A SECRETIVE NETWORK OF VOLUNTEERS FROM WITHIN RUSSIA, COMMUNICATING VIA A TELEGRAM. THE VOLUNTEERS SORTING HIS PAPERWORK, AND TAKING HIM IN ALONG THE WAY. >> TRANSLATOR: A CAR TOOK ME ON THE BORDER. LOCAL KGB OFFICERS INTERROGATED ME. THEY SEARCHED ME, AND EVENTUALLY ALLOWED ME TO PASS. >> AT THE SAME TIME THE CHILDREN SAY BOARDING HOUSE STAFF WERE PRESSURING THEM TO MAKE A DECISION. CHOOSE FOSTER CARE OR AN ORPHANAGE. >> THEY WERE TELLING THE CHILDREN, YOUR FATHER CANNOT MAKE IT, YOU HAVE TO DECIDE. >> BUT AFTER 90 DAYS OF SEPARATION, HE FINALLY WAITED TO HIS CHILDREN. >> TRANSLATOR: I CANNOT EXPLAIN IN WORDS. IT IS JUST SOMETHING THAT YOU HAVE TO FEEL. YOU GO THROUGH ALL THE CIRCLES OF HELL TO FINALLY REACH YOUR CHILD. >> ALTHOUGH SHE IS NOW ADJUSTING TO HER NEW SCHOOL, SHE HOPES TO ONE DAY RETURN TO HER HOME IN MARIUPOL. >> TRANSLATOR: I MISS MY OPAL, I WAS AFRAID PUTIN MIGHT COME. THERE WERE POSTERS OF HIM EVERYWHERE. >> THAT ANXIETY IS SOMETHING MOTHER OF TWO, LARISSA, KNOWS ALL TOO WELL. LAURA SAYS SHOWS ME A SECTION OF THE ROAD OUTSIDE OF KYIV, WHERE RUSSIANS HAVE SET UP A CHECKPOINT. THIS IS WHERE HER SONS WERE TAKEN WHILE RIDING THEIR BIKES BACK FROM THE VILLAGE DURING OCCUPATION. LARISSA SPENT AN HOUR CHECKING THROUGH THE FOREST AT NIGHT, KNOWING US POTENTIALLY MIND WITH EXPLOSIVES, TO GET ANY INFORMATION FROM THE RUSSIAN SOLDIERS. >> TRANSLATOR: I COULD NOT SEE WHERE I WAS GOING BECAUSE I WAS CRYING SO MUCH. THEY SAW ME CRYING, THEY SAW ME TRYING TO FIND OUT WHERE MY SONS WERE. BUT THEY TOLD ME NOTHING. I JUST HEARD SOME GUNSHOTS AND I THOUGHT THAT MAYBE THEY KILLED THEM. I ASKED, DID YOU KILL THEM. THEY SAID NOTHING. >> THIS IS OREN OF HER SONS, 17 YEAR OLD, LAVA, WE'RE COUNTING TO POLICE WHAT HAPPENED THAT DAY. >> TRANSLATOR: THEY PUT US INTO THE VEHICLE, TOOK US TO CHERNOBYL, THEY PUT PLASTIC BAGS OVER OUR HEADS. AND WHEN WE ARRIVED, THEY TIED OUR HANDS AND BLINDFOLDED US WITH SCOTCH TAPE. THEY BEAT US UP AND THEN TOOK US FURTHER TO BELARUS. >> HE ENDED UP AT AN ORPHANAGE. >> TRANSLATOR: HE WAS BEATEN, THEY USED ELECTRIC SHOCK ON HI, THEY BROUGHT HIM TO BELARUS, AND THREW HIM AWAY LIKE A SMALL KITCHEN. I JUST CANNOT UNDERSTAND HOW IT IS POSSIBLE HOW YOU CAN TREAT PEOPLE LIKE THAT. >> HE STILL REELS FROM THE HORRORS OF HIS OBJECTION, SUFFERING WITH POST TRAUMATIC STRESS. AND HIS CASE, THE POLICE WERE ABLE TO FIND OUT WHICH BRIGADE WAS BEHIND HIS ALLEGED KIDNAPPING BY PIECING TOGETHER EVIDENCE FROM THE SCENE. BUT THIS IS A RARE SUCCESS STORY. KEYS CHIEF OF POLICE SAYS THE TASK OF GETTING ALL THE KIDS HOME IS OVERWHELMING. >> TRANSLATOR: IT IS TRULY AN ENORMOUS JOB, WE STILL HAVE FOUR KIDS IN THE KYIV REGION WHOSE PARENTS SAY WERE TAKEN TO RUSSIA. WE HAVE SOME EVIDENCE, BUT IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO REACH THE CHILDREN AND TALK TO THEM NOW. >> WHY IS THE BIG QUESTION? IS IT THAT THEY FEAR POPULATION DEMOGRAPHICS ARE AGAINST THEM? THEY NEED MORE PEOPLE? MORE FAMILIES? DO THEY NEED MORE WHITE FAMILIES TO SATISFY THEIR IDEA OF RUSSIAN PURITY? THAT'S ANOTHER POSSIBILITY. OR DO THEY JUST WANT TO DESTROY THE UKRAINIAN PEOPLE? >> -- AND HIS KIDS NOW SETTLED INTO A NEW LIFE AND LATVIA. THE RECOVERY PROCESS HAS BEGUN. BUT THOUSANDS REMAIN DISPLACED. AND MORE CASES OF ABDUCTION ARE RISING ALMOST EACH WEEK. AND SO FOR MANY UKRAINIAN FAMILIES, THE NIGHTMARE IS FAR FROM OVER. >>

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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