Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, 7/28/22
Russian forces are orchestrating a “massive displacement” program to depopulate Ukrainian territory that falls under their control, a senior U.S. diplomat alleged after an international investigation.
“Forced population transfers are the key to the Kremlin’s plan,” Ambassador Michael Carpenter, who represents the United States at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, said Thursday. “To stand any chance of controlling this territory, Moscow has apparently calculated it must either bomb the territory until nothing is left but dust or engage in forced deportation of local residents via the so-called filtration process.”
That allegation provides a strategic explanation for the massive displacement of Ukrainians documented by the OSCE team. Their report notes that the Russian military acknowledged in May that they had transferred more than 1.4 million Ukrainians into Russia, “including 238,329 children since the start of the war” — a process that involves passing through so-called filtration centers, although “Russia denies accusations” that these transfers are forcible.
“The number of Ukrainian civilians deported from the occupied territories to Russia has continued to rise,” the OSCE investigators reported. “Mass forcible transfers of civilians during a conflict to the territory of the occupying party are prohibited under the 1949 Geneva Conventions. The practice is considered a war crime.”
Several survivors of the filtration process described their ordeal at an OSCE event this week. “At the checkpoint, they saw the Ukrainian layout on my phone, and that was enough to detain me,” a young man, Ihor Talalay, who said he was taken while volunteering to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, said at the event. “In Donetsk, the employees of the ‘Department for Combating Organized Crime’ found it strange that a person from the Dnipro went so far to save people. They beat me with machine guns. They beat me because I didn’t know the answer to the questions they ask.”
Carpenter, the American diplomat, argued that these detentions are part of a “Russification strategy intended to deny Ukraine’s history and independence and suppress Ukrainian language and identity,” one that extends into education programs in the occupied territories. “The Russian government is reportedly offering nearly six times the average monthly salary to Russian teachers to move to Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to teach a curriculum that denies the very existence of Ukraine,” he said.
The exact number of people processed in these filtration centers or sent to Russia remains unclear. A Russian commander known as “the butcher of Mariupol,” Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, “stated that Russia has transferred a total of 1,426,979 Ukrainians, including 238,329 children since the start of the war.” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated this month that the figure is now higher than 2 million while implying that the abuses of Ukrainians in the filtration camps go beyond beatings.
“Tens of thousands of people remain there,” Zelensky told the Asian Leadership Conference on July 13. “Young women disappear there. I think you all understand what is happening with them there.”
Russian authorities are placing detainees in the custody of their so-called separatist proxies in Donbas as a way to “bypass its international obligations” for the civilians — a tactic “somewhat reminiscent” of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program, as the report put it.
“The interrogations and searches seem to be aimed at establishing whether the persons have fought on the Ukrainian side, have any connections to the Azov battalion or have close links to the Ukrainian governments,” the OSCE report states. “If this is found to be so, those persons are separated from others and often simply disappear. Some are allegedly transferred to the territories of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republic, where they are detained or even murdered.”