Russia’s ‘filtration’ system in Ukraine detailed in new reports

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Moscow and its separatist allies in Ukraine use an elaborate and punitive “filtration system” to detain, interrogate and guard Ukrainians, and have forcibly transferred hundreds of thousands to Russia since the start of the war, according to US officials and human rights researchers.

The system operates in Russian-occupied territories and is overseen by the Kremlin, which uses “advanced technology” to collect data on Ukrainian citizens, a foreign ministry official said in a briefing with reporters on Wednesday.

In recent days, two reports — from New York-based Human Rights Watch and Yale University’s Humanitarian Research Lab — have shed new light on the scale of the filter network and its impact on citizens.

Reports of interrogations and abuse by Ukrainian refugees who have gone through the process had previously been reported, including by The Washington Post. The new reports paint a picture of the extent and operation of the filtering system, as well as the fate of Ukrainians deported to Russia, reinforcing evidence of possible Russian war crimes.

Ukraine says Russia forcibly displaced thousands of people from Mariupol. Here’s a dramatic report.

The forcible transfer or deportation of civilians from occupied territory is prohibited under the Geneva Convention, which regulates the conduct of armed conflict. Moscow denies allegations that it forcibly relocated residents – instead, Moscow claims that Russian troops are “protecting” civilians from Ukrainian forces.

“We have information that officials of the Russian presidential government are overseeing and coordinating these filtration operations,” Emma Gilligan, a senior expert with the State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice, told reporters on Wednesday.

“We also know that Russia uses advanced technology to facilitate filtration processes, including for collecting data on Ukrainian citizens,” she said.

In the report released Thursday, Human Rights Watch described the filtering system in Ukraine as a “massive illegal data-gathering exercise” with no legal basis.

Residents are routed to registration sites, where they are screened and released or detained. Some Ukrainians have disappeared or been deported to Russia without identity papers, according to Human Rights Watch.

Video shows Russian ‘filtration camp’, Mariupol . mayor’s office says

According to the Yale report published last week, Ukrainians using the system have had their phone contacts downloaded, fingerprinted and photographed, and passport numbers collected.

The investigators said they found “with great confidence” that Russian and allied forces in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine have used 21 sites for “filtration operations.”

The locations include registration points, temporary detention facilities, interrogation centers and prisons for long-term detention.

The scale of the filter system is “significant,” Nathaniel Raymond, executive director of the Humanitarian Research Lab, said during the same briefing with reporters on Wednesday. The lab’s report is part of the Conflict Observatory, a State Department-backed initiative to document Russian war crimes in Ukraine.

Ukrainian refugees in Russia report interrogations, detention and other abuse

One of the locations identified by the report is a school in Bezimenne, a village east of Mariupol. In May, The Post geolocated video clips showing the school where men forcibly taken from Mariupol were detained, forced to sleep on the floor and threatened with torture and execution, according to a Telegram post accompanying the footage.

Satellite images and videos also verified by The Post in March showed Russian-backed troops building a tent town in the area. At the time, Russian authorities described it as a “life-support” center for refugees from Mariupol, while Ukrainian leaders accused Russia of taking residents to “filtration camps” against their will.

According to Human Rights Watch, some Ukrainians voluntarily traveled to Russia, including men who wanted to avoid martial law in Ukraine, which prevents most military-aged men from leaving the country.

It remains unclear exactly how many Ukrainians have been deported to Russia, or even subjected to the “filtration” screening process. In July, Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said Russia had deported 900,000 to 1.6 million Ukrainian citizens — and that many of those “forcibly deported,” including 260,000 children, ended up in Russia’s far east.

In late June, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk estimated the number of Ukrainians forcibly relocated to Russia at 1.2 million, while Russia said nearly 2.5 million Ukrainian “refugees” had moved to the country.

Yet much is still unknown about the filtering system, including how Russian authorities use the data they collect and where many who were detained or transferred to Russia ended up.

“This report should really serve as a basis for further research, advocacy and hopefully access by the international community to these sites that, clearly, constitute a human rights emergency,” Raymond said.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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