Russian forces and their allies forcibly transferred Ukrainian civilians and refugees to Russia or the territories it occupies. This was stated in a comprehensive report issued by Human Rights Watch.
The Russian authorities have subjected thousands of Ukrainian citizens to mandatory, repressive and harsh security checks. During these “liquidations” they were fingerprinted, photographed, had to undergo a thorough body search, searched their personal belongings or wiped their phones, and last but not least, they were also questioned about their political views.
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One of the men interviewed, who is originally from Mariupol, told Human Rights Watch that with dozens of other city residents, he was held for two weeks in the village school building in filthy conditions. Only then were they transferred to candidacy. He testified that many in this temporary detention had become so nervous about what would happen to them that they had fallen ill: “We felt like we were being held hostage.”
The human rights organization interviewed a total of 54 Ukrainians who had been forced to go to Russia, had undergone the above-mentioned filters, had family members or close friends transferred to Russia, or helped Ukrainians leave Russia. Most of them come from Mariupol and its surroundings or from the Kharkiv region.
Thus, Human Rights Watch’s latest report documents individual displacements of the Ukrainian civilian population and categorizes them as serious violations of law, war crimes, and possible crimes against humanity.
Forcible transfer is classified as a war crime and a possible crime against humanity under international law. It also includes the case in which the transferred person consents to the transfer only because he fears the consequences in case of refusal – violence, coercion or imprisonment. This is what the occupying power in Ukraine uses.
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The human rights organization said that these searches of civilians have no legal basis and violate the right to privacy.
“Ukrainian civilians should have no choice but to go to Russia. Nor should anyone be forced to go through a difficult vetting process to get to safety,” said Belkis Wally, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch and co-author of the report.
to flee? just east
The human rights organization was able to interview dozens of civilians from Mariupol who fled the war zone into Ukraine-controlled territory without having to go through the filters.
The Russian army and associated authorities from the so-called eastern Donbass republics organized humanitarian corridors for civilians fleeing the besieged Mariupol. However, these evacuation methods They were heading eastto Russia.
“It is a completely immoral story. “Human suffering is used to create the desired image on TV,” Ukrainian President spokesman Volodymyr Zelensky said in March when heavy fighting erupted in the region. He stressed that “these are Ukrainian citizens, and they should have the right to evacuate. within Ukrainian territory.
The occupiers told civilians that they had two options – to remain in the territories occupied by Russia or to move directly to Russia. What is the option to go to the territories controlled by the Ukrainian forces? They should have forgotten about it.
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“Of course, we would take the opportunity to go west, to Ukraine, if we could. The obvious one. But we had no choice, there was no choice to leave in that direction,” one woman who was flown east from Mariupol told Human Rights Watch.
Others said in interviews that the military and other members of the Russian forces at checkpoints instructed the fleeing Ukrainians to head for Russia or the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. In principle, the only way to escape from these occupied places to Ukraine was to properly pay for the trip. However, only the most eloquent can do this.
The report also tells the story of a seventy-year-old man from the village of Ruska Lozova, north of Kharkiv. At the time when the Russian soldiers were withdrawing from there they told him: “I stayed here when we occupied the village. When the Ukrainian army comes, they will punish you, and they will execute you.” The man quoted refused to leave with them, but hundreds of local families left the village and ended up in Russia.
Human Rights Watch also mapped stories of Ukrainians who went to Russia entirely voluntarily, ie men who wanted to avoid the obligation to enlist in the army.
On the other hand, there are also cases described in which civilian soldiers did not inform that the evacuation buses were heading to the territories occupied by Russia.
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Although the total number of Ukrainian civilians transferred to Russia is unclear, many of them have been displaced and moved east in conditions that make them victims of violent crime, according to Human Rights Watch.
In a related context: in late July, the Russian state news agency TASS reported that nearly three million Ukrainians, including nearly half a million children, have joined the Russian Federation since the start of the “special military operation”.
Some were able to contact activists who helped them cross the border into Estonia, Latvia or Georgia. However, for many of them, this was not without difficulties, because they often left Ukraine without documents.
Attack on Olenivka
People who did not pass the liquidation process, either because of their links to the Ukrainian army or nationalist groups, were detained in the Russian-occupied areas of eastern Ukraine. One of them is the detention center in Olenivka, where at the end of July, The explosion killed at least fifteen Ukrainian prisoners.
Both sides of the conflict blame each other for the prison attack. According to US intelligence, Russia is falsifying evidence to make it appear that the Ukrainian military was responsible for the strike.
“We expect that Russian officials will try to pin this to the Ukrainian armed forces in anticipation of visits by journalists and potential investigators to the site of the attack,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.
Human Rights Watch’s full 71-page report, “We Had No Choice: ‘Liquidation’ and the Crime of Forcible Transfer of Ukrainian Civilians to Russia,” can be found at Human rights organization website.