International detectives searched for eight Ukrainian children kidnapped by Russia

Oleksandra Opanasenko

International police forces, using open digital sources, searched for eight Ukrainian children who were deported by the Russians. It was an initiative of the Dutch police and Europol.

The Dutch publication AD writes about it.

About 60 detectives and investigators from 23 countries, including Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Great Britain and the United States, gathered a few weeks ago at Europolʼs headquarters in The Hague. Six non-governmental organizations also participated in the operation to search for kidnapped Ukrainian children. Small Ukrainians were searched using satellite images, facial recognition systems, geolocation and other methods.

It was the first time that international experts in the field of digital open sources worked so closely together to find information about child abductions in Ukraine, as informed the head of international crimes at the National Investigation Department of the Dutch police Vincent Cillessen.

"We did not expect that this first joint hackathon would immediately yield results. We wanted to learn from each other and share skills, but our people immediately picked up on it. Given the success, we want to do it more often, at least once a year,” says Cillessen.

Detectives searched open online sources for information that would allow determining the exact whereabouts of the eight deported children. For example, advanced facial recognition was used to find recent images of children. Geolocation specialists were able to indicate the place where the child was photographed.

Due to security concerns, the police cannot say anything about the whereabouts of the children or their names. Specialists established that these are orphans who were forcibly taken to the territories occupied by Russia. They were also used for Russian propaganda purposes. Information about the children was handed over to the Ukrainian authorities.

"We work with colleagues in Ukraine. Police must now share information with family members and begin a criminal investigation into possible perpetrators. We hope that the Ukrainians will be able to do something about it and return these children. But without knowing where these children are, they cannot start this process," emphasized Vincent Cillessen.