Europe

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians forced into Russia, says US

The US has evidence that “hundreds of thousands” of Ukrainian citizens have been interrogated, detained and forcibly deported to Russia in “a series of horrors” overseen by officials from Russia’s presidency.

The accusation came during a Security Council meeting called by the United States and Albania to discuss Russia’s “filtration operations.”

Russia immediately dismissed the allegation as “fantasy,” labelling it the latest invention in a disinformation campaign against the country.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said estimates from a variety of sources, including the Russian government, indicate that Russian authorities have interrogated, detained and forcibly deported between 900,000 and 1.6 million Ukrainians.

She said they are sent to Russia, often to isolated regions in its far eastern regions.

This number involves Ukrainians voluntarily fleeing the war in their homeland and those forcibly being moved to Russia passing through a series of “filtration points” where treatment allegedly ranges from interrogations, data collection and strip searches to being yanked aside, tortured, and sent to a detention centre in Russia and never seen again.

“These operations aim to identify individuals Russia deems insufficiently compliant or compatible to its control,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “And there is mounting and credible evidence that those considered threatening to Russian control because of perceived pro-Ukrainian leanings are ‘disappeared’ or further detained.”

Russia’s presidency is not only coordinating filtration operations but is providing lists of Ukrainians to be targeted for filtration, she added.

Thomas-Greenfield said estimates indicate thousands of children have been subject to filtration, “some separated from their families and taken from orphanages before being put up for adoption in Russia.”

According to US information, “more than 1,800 children were transferred from Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine to Russia” in July alone, she said.

In response, Russia’s UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, accused the West of trying to besmirch his country.

He said more than 3.7 million Ukrainians, including 600,000 children, have gone to Russia or Russian-controlled separatist areas in eastern Ukraine, but they “aren’t being kept in prisons.”

“They are living freely and voluntarily in Russia, and nobody is preventing them from moving or preventing them leaving the country,” he said.

Nebenzia said those Ukrainians went through “a registration rather than filtration procedure” similar to that for Ukrainian refugees in Poland and other countries in the European Union.

UN political chief Rosemary DiCarlo called for investigations of the “extremely disturbing” and persistent allegations “of forced displacement, deportation and so-called `filtration camps’ run by the Russian Federation and affiliated local forces.”

She called for UN access to Ukrainians living in Russian-controlled areas and reiterated that the International Committee of the Red Cross and the U.N. Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine “must have unimpeded access to all individuals detained in relation to the ongoing war.”

“This includes access to places of internment of Ukrainian prisoners of war and detainees in the Russian Federation,” she said. “Both sides to the conflict must fully abide with their obligations under international law.”

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