Ukrainian police have uncovered a sprawling child sexual abuse network, involving dozens of Russian children whose images and videos were allegedly traded inside and outside the country, but said it was impossible to pursue the case further because of the war.
A Ukrainian man has been arrested and 15 children, all Russians currently residing in Russia, identified, but prosecutors in the Kyiv region have said they are not able to trace other victims or arrest other suspects because of the severing of Russia-Ukraine relations since the Kremlin’s invasion.
“These kinds of crimes are unfortunately common everywhere, in Ukraine and Europe,” said Oleh Tkalenko, a senior prosecutor for the Kyiv region, who led the investigation. “But what terrifies us is the large scale of these crimes in Russia.”
“The victims of these crimes are the most vulnerable segments of the population,” Tkalenko said. “Parents who push their children to do this are extremely poor. And it’s really hard to stop these files from spreading. And it’s really frustrating because, due to the conflict, all our contacts with Russian colleagues have been cut.”
The investigation began in June, when the Ukrainian police’s cybercrime unit received information that a large number of child sexual abuse images were being downloaded and stored in the Kyiv region.
Prosecutors a month later searched a house in Bucha where files containing more than 100,000 images and videos of child sexual abuse were found.
“We immediately tried to identify the children and victims of these crimes who were involved in the network,” Tkalenko said. “And we were shocked when we found out that they were all Russian citizens. We have identified 15 of them so far, but we are talking of dozens of children involved.”
Some of the victims were as young as nine years of age and came from various areas of Russia, including Moscow, Kaliningrad and Krasnodar.
The suspect has been placed under house arrest by judges pending a verdict. If convicted, the man faces up to five years in prison.