The Ukrainian government has accused Russia of forcibly deporting thousands of people to its territory, including hundreds of minors. The Ukrainian human rights defender, Liudmila Denisova, assures that Vladimir Putin’s forces are transferring civilians from the Donbas area and from occupied towns in the south to makeshift camps called “filtration”. There the Russian forces seize their passports, they are interrogated and, finally, many of them are sent to Russian cities. kyiv denounces that Moscow leads thousands of civilians desperate for bombs and destruction through corridors, sometimes without knowing where they are going. At least 40,000 have already been transferred from Ukraine to Russian-controlled territories, according to Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk.
At reception facilities for internally displaced persons in the center of the country, several people from the area south of Donetsk describe cases of civilians picked up at Russian checkpoints, who are arrested and transferred against their will. By phone, a woman from Mariupol who asks to protect her identity because she still has family in the city, affirms that her neighbors, much older than her, were forced to accept the transfer by the Russian soldiers. “They entered the shelter where they were and were told that it would soon be attacked. They had no other choice,” she recounts.
The Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelenski, has assured that some 2,000 minors have been “kidnapped” in the zones that remain under the attack of the Kremlin forces. But the difficulties in accessing these territories, added to the absence of international organizations at these points, make independent verification of the figures very difficult. Ukraine also denounces the kidnapping of dozens of mayors, local politicians, journalists and activists from the occupied towns.
160,000 people trapped in Mariupol
As Putin’s war against Ukraine enters its fifth week and the counteroffensive by Zelensky’s forces is succeeding in retaking areas in the south of the country and close to the capital, kyiv, Russian troops continue their siege of Mariupol, the port city of the Sea of Azov that has become the symbol of the suffering of the civilian population due to this war. Russian soldiers already control several areas of the town, where some 160,000 people are still trapped, according to its mayor, Vadim Boichenko, on Monday. From the occupied areas of Mariupol, the employees of various Russian state media are already broadcasting, which attribute the destruction to “Ukrainian nationalists”.
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Thousands of people have also been deported from Mariupol. Dozens of them have been transported to a sports center in Tarangong, a Russian city between the town on the Sea of Azov and Russia’s Rostov-on-Don. Boichenko has accused Russian forces of preventing safe evacuations and exits from the city to other parts of Ukraine and employing various strategies for forced deportations: from forcing citizens to board buses bound for occupied territories and from there to Russia, to channel the exits through corridors and without detailing those civilians desperate to leave a devastated city who are going to be transferred to Russia. “The occupants are forcing people already exhausted by the war to get on the buses,” Boichenko said in a Telegram message.
Satellite images also make it possible to identify a camp in Bezimenne, a coastal town about 90 kilometers east of Mariupol. At least 5,000 people are staying there between tents, a school and a sports club, according to the official newspaper of the Russian Government Rossiskaya Gazeta some days ago. The news details that the transferred people were held at checkpoints where their fingerprints and photographs were taken. “Your details are checked against a database of wanted criminals. One of the key problems is the shortage of SIM cards and not everyone has a mobile phone.
For its part, Russia denies that it is forcibly deporting people and assures that it has received in “evacuations” some 400,000 people who have “expressed the desire to escape” to the country. Russian media also report that hundreds of civilians from Ukraine have been sent by train more than a thousand kilometers north, to the Yarloslavl and Ryazan regions.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense and the country’s Prosecutor’s Office are compiling documentation of cases of forced deportation to go before international bodies to denounce what is an abuse of human rights: deporting civilians to the invading country. kyiv also says it has data that Moscow is relocating civilians to distant parts of Russia, including to Sakhalin, an island in the Russian Far East. “After passing the filtration camps, the Ukrainians are sent to economically depressed areas of Russia,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement on its Facebook. “They are ‘offered’ official employment through employment centers. Those who accept it receive documents prohibiting them from leaving the Russian regions for two years,” he adds.
The Ukrainian human rights defender has assured that the scale of the forced relocation that is being experienced in her country is only comparable to the deportation carried out by Hitler during the Second World War. Talking about forced deportations also makes many citizens think of the Stalinist era. And the language of “filtering camps” evokes —also in this and once again in this conflict— the war in Chechnya, in which there were facilities where thousands of people were arbitrarily detained in conditions that violated human rights, and even torture was carried out, as documented by human rights organizations.
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