Donetsk militants are now recruiting child soldiers, and they’re not hiding the fact either.
This worrisome fact comes from a Russian photojournalist who recently arrived in Donetsk by train to document the situation.
The boy seen above, Andrew, is 15 and wears the uniform of the Vostok Battalion. The identity of the two masked adolescents who flank him wielding assault rifles are not known.
Andrew was recently put in a unit of reinforcements during an actual combat mission, but has so far avoided taking part in any battles. A Donetsk Republic militant says the boys have yet to be ‘baptized by fire’. Despite not being an adult, the terrorist group has already made him a commander of a training division.
The apple does not fall far from the tree, though: his parents approved of sending him off to fight the Ukrainian army, and his father is also a member of the notorious Vostok Battalion, one of the many terrorist groups to emerge in eastern Ukraine that is largely made up of Russians and Chechens.
He’s been indoctrinated to believe tropes typical of Russian propaganda. Andrew says he’ll fight to the death against what he calls “the junta” because “we have nowhere to retreat.” He believes his cause is defending against a “true genocide.”
While according to the Geneva Conventions, recruiting children over the age of 15 into an armed force is permissible under certain conditions, under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, which was adopted and signed in 2002, non-state actors and guerrilla forces such as the Donetsk Republic organization are expressly forbidden from recruiting anyone under the age of 18 for any purpose.