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Сhild abuse: Europol’s report about child sexual violence

Bellingcat made Europol’s Child Abuse report concerning the images geolocated in Ukraine
17:14, 11 September 2019

Open source

Child abuse is the acute problem of modern society. Hundred thousand of children suffer from violence annually. The following report contains a reference to a child modeling studio producing child sexual abuse material in 2001, published by Bellingcat

There are brief facts about the investigation chosen from the Europol’s report:

  • At least 60 victims between the ages of 8 and 17 were hired to work
  • More than 7300 images were produced in less than a year
  • There were seven “photographers” working for the page including Denis, the founder of the studio, and other unidentified individuals associated with the studio.
  • $250,000 were received on the personal accounts of Denis and Sergey for the operation carried in Ukraine.

As it was noted in the report the first photo was from Ukraine, Odesa region. The image was edited by Europol to protect the victim. The censoring process was done in such a way that almost 10% of the landscape was reconstructed. Small fractions from other points on the image were merged into the cropped area. This caused the repetition of items in several points of the landscape.

The similar landscape as on the photo was also found in Western Ukraine within the Sumy region.

As it was reported then, having explored the history of the World War II on the territory of Ukraine and Moldova, i.e. the territory with landscape similarities, buildings, a water reservoir was found.

On the south end of Oleksandrivske Reservoir, a peninsula with transmission lines on its west side was identified. Across the reservoir, another transmission tower and cables crossing above the water were noticed. 

According to the report, several other water buildings were checked, using pictures from Google Earth, Yandex, images from YouTube as well as drones to find the similarities in the site. The numerous pieces of researches were done in order to puzzle all the fragments into one full picture. It resulted in the building, which Belingcat named as Studio A.

Studio A was a company founded by Denis M. & Sergey P. in the early 2000s with funds coming from several European financiers. Denis was an IT expert and Sergey was a photographer known for nude “artistic” work with teens.

As it was reported, Most of the underage children featuring in their productions were scouted around schools in eastern Europe – mainly Moldova. They usually came from impoverished backgrounds and were offered “modeling work” to help their families with a money equivalent to a month’s salary of their parents. Knowing the conditions required by the studio, many parents reportedly agreed to send their children from Moldova to Ukraine with Studio A

However, Sergey, who managed the business independently, had a serious addiction to heavy drugs. According to victims’ testimonies, as per the files, Sergey not only photographed victims naked but would then physically sexually assault them and offer them addictive substances. What ultimately happened to Denis and Sergey’s partnership remains unclear, but it is reported that tensions between Denis and Sergey increased and they parted ways in early 2001.

The report says that Denis created a new website came from Russia-based projects that featured nude underage girls. In 2002, two women traveling with four children were detained in a train station close to the Ukraine/Moldova border for interrogation. They were carrying false documentation to take these minors abroad. During questioning, all underage girls mentioned they were paid an average of $50 per session in exchange for taking part in explicit photography produced by two individuals: Denis & Sergey.

Eighteen years have passed since the discovery of the dark operation of Studio A. This is a pure example of child sexual abuse and human trafficking. According to the report, the situation in Ukraine has changed – but it has changed for the worse. The problem has been aggravated by the development of technology and faster communications. There are new forms of criminality and an intensified production and dissemination of child abuse material in the Ukraine-Moldova-Belarus-Russia region. 

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