- The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of the “unlawful deportation” of Ukrainian children to a network of camps inside Russia. The warrant was based on a report by the Yale HRL center, which is funded by the US State Department.
- US journalist Jeremy Loffredo visited one of Russian government-sponsored camps in question. At The Donbas Express, located just outside of Moscow, Loffredo met youth from war-torn regions who were flourishing thanks to free music instruction, and grateful to be in a secure environment. This article features his exclusive video report.
- A Grayzone review of the Yale HRL report found the paper’s content contradicted many claims contained in the ICC warrant. It also undercut incendiary statements its director, Nathaniel Raymond, issued during media appearances.
- In an interview with Loffredo, Yale HRL’s Raymond further contradicted allegations he made in a CNN interview about a massive “hostage situation” underway in Russia, acknowledging that most of the camps he researched were “teddy bear”-like cultural programs. He also disclosed his collaboration with US intelligence.
On March 17, the Prosecutor General of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, introduced an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Maria Llova-Belova. The warrant, which accused Putin and Lolva-Belova of conducting the “unlawful deportation” of Ukrainian children to a “network of camps” across the Russian Federation, inspired a wave of incendiary commentary in the West.
US Sen. Lindsey Graham, perhaps the most aggressive cheerleader in Congress for war with Russia, proclaimed: “The ICC has an arrest warrant for Putin because he has organized the kidnapping of at least 16,000 Ukrainian children from their families and sent them to Russia. It is exactly what Hitler did in World War II.”
CNN’s Fareed Zakaria echoed Graham, declaring the ICC warrant revealed that Putin “is in fact following parts of Hitler’s playbook.”
The ICC prosecutor appeared to have based his arrest warrant on research produced by Yale University’s Humanitarian Research Lab (HRL). Yale HRL’s work was funded and guided by the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, an entity the Biden administration established in May 2022 to advance the prosecution of Russian officials.
During an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Yale HRL’s executive director, Nathaniel Raymond, claimed his report provided proof that “thousands of children are in a hostage situation.” Invoking the Holocaust, Raymond asserted, “We are dealing with the largest network of children camps seen in the 21st century.”
Yet in an interview with Jeremy Loffredo, the co-author of this report, and in his own paper for Yale HRL, Raymond contradicted many of the bombastic claims he made to the media about child hostages. During a phone conversation with Loffredo, Raymond acknowledged that “a large amount” of the camps his team investigated were “primarily cultural education – like, I would say, teddy bear.”
Yale HRL’s report similarly acknowledges that most of the camps it profiled provided free recreational programs for disadvantaged youth whose parents sought “to protect their children from ongoing fighting” and “ensure they had nutritious food of the sort unavailable where they live.” Nearly all of the campers returned home in a timely manner after attending with the consent of their parents, according to the paper. The State Department-funded report further concedes that it found “no documentation of child mistreatment.”
Yale HRL based its research entirely on Maxar satellite data, Telegram postings, and Russian media reports, relying on Google translate to interpret them and at times misrepresented the articles in its citations. The State Department-funded unit conceded that it performed no field research for its paper, stating that it “does not conduct ground-level investigations and therefore did not request access to the camps.”
Unlike the Yale investigators who inspired the ICC’s arrest warrant, Loffredo gained unfettered access to a Russian government camp in Moscow that houses youth from the war-torn Donbas region. Though it is precisely the kind of center that Yale HRL – and by extension, the ICC – have portrayed as a “re-education camp” for Ukrainian child hostages, he found a hotel full of happy campers receiving free classical music lessons in their native Russian language from first-class instructors – a “teddy bear,” as Raymond called it.
At The Donbas Express music camp located just outside of Moscow, youth told Loffredo they were grateful to have found refuge from the Ukrainian army’s years-long campaign of shelling and besiegement of their homeland. By fleeing the war in Donbas, these children had escaped a nightmarish military conflict for which Yale HRL and the ICC have demonstrated little to no concern….