Moscow confirmed Tuesday the arrests of Russian teachers who had been deployed to northeastern Ukraine after Kyiv's forces recaptured swathes of the region from Russia in a lightning counteroffensive.
The confirmation by Russian investigative authorities came one day after Ukraine’s top government official announced the arrests of Russian teachers in the Kharkiv region.
Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Monday that the Russian teachers faced up to 12 years in prison on charges of violating laws and customs of war, without specifying how many had been arrested.
Russia’s Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said that its head has ordered a criminal probe into the detention of educators teaching the Russian curriculum in the Kharkiv region’s schools.
“The representatives of the Kyiv regime qualified this activity as a crime and organized criminal prosecution,” Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a statement, vowing to “give a legal assessment of the actions of all the persons involved.”
But Russia’s Education Ministry dismissed the claims of the arrests of its teachers altogether, saying that only local educators have been teaching at schools in the Kharkiv region since Sept. 1 and claiming that Russian teachers are “safe” in territories controlled by Russian troops.
“Russian education has no borders,” Education Minister Sergei Kravtsov said in a statement. “Intimidating teachers with their work is obviously another case of insanity.”
Kravtsov later said that all teachers who wished to leave the Kharkiv region were evacuated to Russia.
Later Tuesday, Ukraine’s general prosecutor’s office said it had “no information” that Ukrainian law enforcement bodies had detained Russian teachers in the Kharkiv region.
The U.S.-funded broadcaster Current Time, which quoted the prosecutor’s office, said its sources within the Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk prosecutors’ offices also denied arresting any Russian teachers.
Widespread reports over the summer said recruiters promised higher pay for Russian teachers to relocate to captured Ukrainian territories to “correct” Ukrainian children’s education with pro-Russian curriculums.
The "re-education" effort is seen as part of Moscow’s Russification campaign in Ukrainian territories it has captured in more than six months of deadly fighting.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukrainian troops have reclaimed 6,000 square kilometers of territory in the east and south of Ukraine amid Kyiv’s counteroffensive since the start of September.