The United States calls for an end to Russian “filtration operations”, forced deportation

The United States calls on Russia to halt its “filtering” operations and the forced deportation of Ukrainians in the midst of its months-long war, and accuses Moscow of committing “war crimes”.

On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Antony Blinken issued a statement urging Russia to “immediately halt its systematic ‘filtering operations’ and forced deportations into Russian-controlled and detained areas of Ukraine.”

“The illegal transfer and deportation of protected persons is a serious breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention for the Protection of Civilians and is a war crime,” Blinken said.

“Russian authorities must release the detainees and allow Ukrainian citizens who are forcibly removed or forced to leave their country the opportunity to return home quickly and safely.”

Blinken quoted that between 900,000 and 1.6 million Ukrainian citizens – including at least 260,000 children – have been “interrogated, detained and forcibly deported” from their homes to Russia, including far-eastern areas of the country.

He accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of having his military carry out operations to separate families, abduct children to adopt in Russia, confiscate Ukrainian passports and issue Russian passports to Ukrainians to “change the demographic composition.”

A police officer helps a wounded woman after a strike hit a residential area in eastern Ukraine on July 7.
A police officer helps a wounded woman after a strike hit a residential area in eastern Ukraine on July 7, 2022.
Nariman El-Mofty / AP

“President Putin and his government will not be able to participate in these systematic abuses with impunity. Accountability is imperative,” Blinken said. “That is why we support the efforts of Ukrainian and international authorities to collect, document and preserve evidence of atrocities. Together, we are dedicated to holding the perpetrators of war crimes and other atrocities accountable.”

While Russia has consistently denied that it is targeting civilians, the U.S. intelligence service has identified at least 18 “filtering camps” set up by Moscow to detain and detain Ukrainian civilians, according to the New York Times.

A diplomat, Courtney Austrian, the deputy head of the US Mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told the broadcast that intelligence had indicated that preparations for such operations began even before Russia officially invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Ukrainian soldiers shoot at Russian positions
Ukrainian soldiers shoot at Russian positions from a US-backed M777 howitzer on July 14.
Evgeniy Maloletka / AP

“Russian officials have likely created lists of Ukrainian civilians who are considered to threaten Russia’s control over Ukraine, including anyone with pro-Ukrainian views, such as political figures and activists, as well as security personnel, for detention and filtering,” Austrian said.

As dozens of Ukrainian civilians continue to die daily from Russian missile attacks, the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor said on Thursday that it was time for an “overall strategy” to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Rescuers are working on the site of a building damaged by a deadly Russian missile attack in Vinnytsia, Ukraine on July 14.
Rescuers are working on the site of a building damaged by a deadly Russian missile attack in Vinnytsia, Ukraine on July 14.
Efrem Lukatsky / AP

“The simple truth is that when we speak, children, women and men, young and old, live in terror,” said ICC prosecutor Karim Khan, emphasizing the need for “coordination, coherence” and “the need for an overall strategy.”

While the ICC has no jurisdiction to prosecute the crime of aggression in Ukraine because neither Russia nor Ukraine are among the 123 member states of the court, Kyiv allowed Khan to open an investigation in early March.

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