Ukraine Children
Ukrainians have moved to Ukraine's eastern border, through the humanitarian corridor from Russia's Belgorod region, to escape the conflict. Genya SAVILOV/AFP

As part of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his associates have been accused of facilitating the kidnapping of Ukrainian children.

This week, the BBC reported that its investigators had found that one of President Putin's political allies had adopted a child who was seized from a Ukrainian children's home.

According to documents uncovered by BBC's Panorama, Sergey Mironov, the Leader of the Just Russia Party, has been named as the adoptive parent of a two-year-old girl who was kidnapped at just 10 months old in 2022.

While the 70-year-old Chairman has not responded to the allegations against him, his wife has also been named on the illegitimate adoption certificate – which dubs her as the adoptive mother of the toddler.

The two-year-old is known to be Margarita Prokopenko, but the Panorama investigation notes that the young girl has since had her identity changed in Russia.

Soon after Russian troops captured the Ukrainian city of Kherson in March last year, 48 children were reportedly kidnapped from the Kherson Regional Children's Home. Margarita is believed to be one of those taken from the children's home, which looked after children who had medical problems, or whose parents had lost custody of them or had died.

From BBC's Panorama investigation, it has been found that Margarita's birth mother had given up custody shortly after giving birth.

Victoria Novikova, a Human Rights Investigator, has been working on uncovering information regarding the disappearance of Ukrainian children with the BBC.

When Margarita was just 10 months old, while she was being treated for bronchitis at Kherson's Children's Hospital, a woman who introduced herself as "the head of the children's affairs from Moscow" ordered the infant immediate transfer – according to Dr Nataliya Lyutikova, who led infant treatment at the hospital.

Novikova uncovered a Russian document that confirmed Margarita's transfer to a Russian hospital and later identified the anonymous Russian woman as Inna Varlamova.

Dr Lyutikova confirmed that Varlamova was the woman who had visited Kherson's Children's Hospital and ordered 10-month-old Margarita's release.

It has been found that Margarita's birth mother had given up custody shortly after giving birth.

After an anonymous Russian source provided the BBC investigators and Novikova with a crucial document, it was revealed that Inna Varlamova had recently married Mironov, the Leader of the Just Russia Party and ally to President Putin.

The BBC later got its hands on train records, delivered by additional sources in Russia, that showed that Varlamova took a train back to Moscow with extra train tickets.

Novikova and the BBC's researchers went on to access a birth certificate that was created during the Christmas period last year. The birth certificate was for a 14-month-old baby named 'Marina', the daughter of Varlamova and Mironov.

'Marina' shared the same birthday as Margarita, listed as 31 October 2021.

Speaking of the birth certificate revelation, Novikova said: "When I saw Marina's birthday was the same as Margarita's, I realised it was 'bingo'."

Anonymous Russian sources have since provided the BBC with Margarita's adoption record exposing Russia and its kidnapping scheme against Ukrainian families.

Along with being given a new name that acts as a tribute to her adoptive father, 'Marina Mironova', Margarita's birthplace has been recorded as Podolsk.

Since the Russia-Ukraine conflict escalated in February 2022, there have been around 20,000 children who have been forcibly taken by the Russian forces, according to the Ukrainian government.

A report published in July this year, notes that Russia's Children's Commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, confirmed that more than 700,000 Ukrainian children have been taken from Ukraine to Russia since February 2022.

Lvova-Belova went on to claim that the majority of the youngsters, were accompanied by their parents and relatives when entering Russia.

Earlier this year, the International Criminal Court accused both President Putin and Lvova-Belova of facilitating the deportation of Ukrainian children to controlled territories in Russia.

The pair were also accused of attempting to permanently remove the children from their home nation and received arrest warrants as a result.