International police forces have managed to track down eight Ukrainian children who were abducted and deported by Russian troops during a hackathon organized by the Dutch police and Europol. They’ve shared the information with the Ukrainian authorities.
Some 60 investigators from 23 countries, including the Netherlands, Austria, Germany, and Sweden, gathered at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague a few weeks ago. They used satellite images, advanced facial recognition, and geolocating - determining the exact location of images using satellite images and other things - to try and find Ukrainian children abducted since Russia invaded the country two years ago.
This was the first time that international specialists in the field of digital open sources worked so closely together on the subject of child abduction in Ukraine, Vincent Cillessen of the Dutch police’s International Crimes Team told AD. “Since the start of the war in February 2022, thousands of Ukrainian children have been taken from their familiar environment by the Russians. That may be seen as a war crime. Since we have no physical access to Russia, we tried to locate these children and perpetrators based on digital sources,” he said.
“We did not expect this first joint hackathon to immediately yield results. We mainly wanted to learn from each other and exchange skills, but our people immediately caught on. Given the success, we want to do this more often. We aim for at least once a year,” Cillessen said.