Ukrainian infants and small children are being kidnapped and sold at the Ukraine-Poland border, where elite pedophiles are paying up to $150,000 for their own demented enjoyment.
“This is just a sweet shop for them at the moment,” says Dean, a former British soldier who is astonished at the world of elite pedophilia he has encountered. Dean now works for MitMark, a private risk consulting firm that ‘fell into’ human trafficking prevention after coming near the Medyka crossing in Poland for crisis management projects.
“You wouldn’t think that any human could do that to another human,” he said. “It’s beyond terrorism. I’ve fought against terrorism most of my adult life but at least they believe in something. Traffickers are motivated solely by greed and money. They have no concept of life.”
Byline Times reports: The going rate for a baby or very young child – either to be sold into sexual slavery or killed and harvested for organs – is around USD $150,000.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on 24 February, around 5.5 million Ukrainians have fled abroad. The vast majority of them are women and children, as men aged 18 to 60 are forbidden from leaving the country under emergency laws.
The journeys are arduous, often spanning thousands of miles and several days, and often preceded by weeks lived under Russian bombardment and occupation.
Those who arrive abroad are exhausted and overwhelmed by the help on offer on the Polish side of the border from the huge volunteer movement that has mobilized. Here, they feel that they can relax and finally let their guard down a little.
But the best camouflage for a human trafficker is the kindness of others.
“We had one Italian guy who pretended to be a volunteer who took a whole family of women and kids, seven people I think, and told them he would drive them to Italy,” said a volunteer who wished to remain anonymous.
“He drove them to Italy then in the middle of nowhere he told them to get out. They got out and he drove away. I think that maybe he was told on the phone that the police were onto him and he just got rid of them. He also took another woman and kid and we still don’t know where they are.”
No one knows how many people have been trafficked since the Russian invasion began, only that it is happening and it is organized on a professional level.
“Most trafficking in Poland happens through organized crime networks in the central European region and it was a problem long before the refugee crisis itself,” says Allison Byrd, special projects coordinator at anti-trafficking charity Unbound.
“It’s helpful to remember this is a situation of supply and demand. So where demand is high, we know the supply is going to reach that. And sadly I’ve heard reports from some of our partners that searches online for Ukrainian women have skyrocketed. So traffickers are highly motivated financially to meet that demand.”
On the ground at border crossings, gang lookouts – or ‘dickers’ – prowl the area, taking photos of women and children which they send to the higher-ups who then decide if they are suitable for trafficking. It is these dickers that Dean and his colleagues are on the lookout for.
“It’s not difficult, to be honest, because if you’re a male between the age of 19 and 65 and you’ve not got documentation to say you can’t fight, and you’re not Polish, then what are you doing there and lurking about?” says Dean.
He points to a photo on his phone of a Caucasian male. “We’ve got eight of these on file,” he explains. “This guy I saw on the other side of the border four days ago. Look at him – he’s 40-years-old and doesn’t look unfit. What’s he doing there? He’s not scruffy, has a fresh haircut and he’s talking to young people with kids.”
Facial recognition technology can also help to detect in real-time people known to work with criminal gangs, something that has been deployed by Unbound to good effect.
After spotting a woman claiming to be a volunteer but offering to pay refugees to carry bags over the border for her in exchange for a lift to Warsaw, a team member discreetly photographed her and sent it to a colleague in the US. “He ran the photo and he confirmed that this person is connected to people who are not good people,” says Byrd.
The surveillance undertaken by MitMark and Unbound has proven effective, with Dean’s colleagues managing to intervene in two cases where people were about to be trafficked.
Speaking of one of these interceptions, he said: “We stopped this, the guys went in there, got the lady and two young children into a safe haven where there’s a crisis management team. We tried to grab the guy but he’d bolted. We gave the surveillance we’d collected on him from previous days to the Polish police but they didn’t really want to know.”
The incident highlights one of the main issues facing those trying to combat trafficking – the reported reluctance of authorities at the border to do anything more than the bare minimum of keeping the area calm and quiet.
“I’m from Kyiv and I arrived in Krakow train station on the 5 March with my three-year-old child and my friend and her two children,” a Ukrainian woman who wished to remain anonymous told Byline Times. “One guy came up to her out of nowhere and said ‘hello, where are you going? I will drive you to a safe place. I’m here to help’. I was running over to her with the kids and telling him to f*ck off and he ran away.”
As the course of the war shifts, so does the flow of refugees. Many Ukrainians are now heading home, reassured that because of Russia’s failed attempt to take the capital of Kyiv, it is now relatively safe to do so.
Inevitably, the traffickers now see opportunities on the Ukrainian side of the border, targeting people as they enter their home country and look for ways to travel to their hometowns.
“We were [on the Ukrainian side of the border] the other day and there were Mercedes cars with blacked out windows full of guys,” says Dean. “It seems like something out of a movie but it’s true – two big saloon cars, three guys in each car which makes no sense. If you were there to pick somebody up to take them back to Kyiv, for example, you wouldn’t have three guys in each car. There are red flags everywhere.”