March 22, 2023

Masha, The War Criminal


Masha, The War Criminal
Maria Lvova-Belova (center), wanted for the abduction of children in Ukraine by the Hague, stands in a forest surrounded by her children and her priest husband. Krogel Maciej, Twitter.

A recent arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) targetted not just President Vladimir Putin, but also Maria "Masha" Lvova-Belova, the Presidential Commissioner for Children's Rights. As with Putin, the 38-year-old was indicted by the ICC for her role in deporting children from Ukraine, which is a violation of international law and an act of genocide

But who is she?

Lvova-Belova was originally a guitar teacher in schools in her native Penza. At 19, she married programmer-turned-priest Pavel Kogelman in order to have a large family. According to Lvova-Belova, she would not go on more than one date with a man who wanted less than three children.

She then became involved in NGOs helping orphans and opened rehabilitation centers for persons with disabilities. During that time, she began adopting multiple children while birthing five of her own. She and her husband currently have 22 children. Her philanthropic endeavors caught the attention — and money — of the Orthodox Church, the state, oligarchs like Roman Abramovich, and, more importantly, Putin. However, as her political fame grew, reports emerged that people staying in her facilities with severe disabilities were hidden from authorities and some even died due to a lack of proper care.

In March 2022, "Masha" made it clear that Ukrainian orphans would be — illegally, it should be noted — sent to Russia. Children from Donetsk and Luhansk were the first victims of the deportation, which later was extended to all occupied regions. Ukrainian kids and teenagers have been relocated and forcibly adopted by Russian families. Lvova-Belova herself appropriated a teenager from Mariupol, 15-year-old Fillip.

Lvova-Belova has personally accompanied the abductions, and Putin has forcibly imposed Russian citizenship on the victims. Lvova-Belova has also received deported children dressed in Russian folk costumes and insisted: "We receive you like this because now you are ours."

The Ukrainian government website Children of War estimates that over 16,000 children have been abducted into Russia. Only 307 have been returned.

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