What we know about the “camps” in which Russia is accused of forcibly transferring Ukrainians

It’s a word we thought went down the history books: “deportation.” But on Monday, May 9, the city of Kyiv announced (Link in Ukrainian) that “More than 1.19 million [ses] Citizens, including more than 200,000 children, were deported to the Russian Federation ” Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. On the same day, the Pentagon claimed to have “Signs” that “Ukrainians are being sent against their will to Russia”, without bid Accurate numbers.

These accusations are not new. Barely a month after the start of the war between Ukraine and Russia, it appeared Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs*Moscow has already been accused ‘forced deportation’ Thousands of Mariupol residents to take them to Russia. this country It is said to have taken in 1.1 million Ukrainians*, but a Kremlin spokesperson described accusations of forced displacement as “Lying” From March *. However, testimonies, as well as investigations, have also shed light on a group of “camps” in which Ukrainians are taken, often without having much choice, sometimes in the most remote regions of Russia.

What are these “camps”?

Hotels, summer camps, sanatoriums, even a former chemical weapons depot… British media me* It claims to have located more than 60 re-allocated sites to house displaced Ukrainians, using satellite imagery and local media reports. these places”It is administered by the Russian Ministry of Emergencies.explains Belkis Wille, a senior researcher in the Crisis and Conflict Division of the NGO Human Rights Watch, who interviewed Ukrainians who passed through these camps.

Russia calls these places “temporary residence” (Tab in English). It’s not about war: it’s places to turn into service “For reception, temporary accommodation, registration and priority life support for residents who have been removed from the emergency area”According to the ministry (in Russian) Emergencies ranging from wars to natural disasters. But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky notes that these structures are also used to commit violations: “TAll the people who went to these Russian-controlled areas have disappeared. They are in special camps on Russian soil. Some of them just disappeared.”he said on April 20 on BFMTV.

TAPs are highlighted by me Scattered throughout the country: some are near the border with Ukraine, others are between Leonidovka (530 km from the border) and Tyumen (more than 1,800 km), and some are in such remote areas as Siberia or the Arctic Circle. The total number of these camps is not so a favourAs how many Ukrainians are there but a ‘A source close to power’And Quoted by the Russian public agency TASS* On May 11 says 34 000 people are accommodated in 523 “Temporary Shelters”. And from 12 March Decree (in Russian) published by Moscow, called on each Russian region to prepare to receive a specific number of displaced persons.

How are Ukrainians transported there ?

To leave the lands occupied by Russia or evacuate Mariupol, Ukrainians generally have no choice : They first pass through “filter camps” run by separatist forces in the Donbass. These structures should not be confused with those that were spotted on Russian soil. : “Those who have undergone the liquidation process explain that it is a kind of security check, to filter out those who are anti-Russian or very pro-Ukrainian”Belqis Wally explains. These camps, which already appeared after World War II and during the wars in Chechnya, are now re-emerging in separatist regions, such as Bizimeni or Mangosh.

Some of the Ukrainians examined said they rented a hotel room during the operation, but others, staying in tents or buildings run by separatist forces, described deplorable conditions. : undernutrition, dysentery epidemics, as reported by the BBC * … they all go through the same stages: top-down phone checks, fingerprinting, and above all several hours of interrogations and physical examinations, to establish links to the Azov Battalion or the government Ukrainian. “They check your body to see if you have traces that prove you fought or handled weapons.”one of the Ukrainians tells franceinfo.

“These are not necessarily physical assaults, but psychological violence (…). All to allow just a dozen a day out of the hundreds waiting.”

Dmitriy, a resident of Mariupol who took refuge in Zaporizhia

in franceinfo

Some testimonies sometimes provoke violence, even outright disappearances. “A woman went through a filter camp with her brother, but she just went out. And when I asked the guard where her brother was, he replied: I’ve stopped counting the people I’ve killed.”Says Svetlana Ganushkina, founder of the Russian NGO Helping Commission for Civil Assistance to Refugees. “It may have been a joke, but for this woman it wasn’t. She still doesn’t know where he is.”

Once the nomination process is complete, Ukrainians will reportedly face a “choice”. “They were told: Either you stay in a cellar in Mariupol without water, without electricity, without food, without care and die … or you go to Russia” ”, told franceinfo Oleksandra, a human rights lawyer. So many choose Russia, especially since Moscow often rents free buses, but “Some Ukrainians said they did not know where the buses they took were going.”, says Bilqis Willy. After crossing the border, those who have friends or relatives in Russia can stay with them. But for others, TAP is the only alternative.

Are these displacements war crimes?

It all depends on whether it was made under duress or not. Article 49 of the 1949 Geneva Convention states that in the event of an invasion, “Forcible transfers (…) from occupied territory to the territory of the occupying power or to the territory of any other country (…) are prohibited, whatever the reason.”

But for there to be restrictions, there is no need to threaten someone with an instant weapon. Report * fromOrganization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) considers that displacement can be considered forced “Because Russia created a coercive environment, these civilians had no other choice.”. A situation that appears to correspond to the situation described by Oleksandra and Human Rights Watch, because returning to Ukraine would mean risking his life again.

How are the Ukrainians treated once they arrive in these “camps”?

This is the most difficult in terms of knowledge. The testimonials you collected Washington Post* They say interrogations are going on there, but the Ukrainians interviewed by Bilkis Willy have not reported any violence.

“Conditions are very different from one camp to another, it’s not a uniform system”

Svetlana Gnushkina, founder of the Russian Civil Assistance Committee for NGOs

in franceinfo

Svetlana Ganushkina adds, however, that in the taps, “The medical care for refugees is generally poor, as is the food. They are not provided with clothes and they have no money”.

Some of them were offered jobs — not forced — by the authorities, according to accounts provided to Human Rights Watch and In the world (subscribers to the article). But this will be rare, according to Svetlana Gnushkina, because “Many of these technical assistance programs are located in areas that Russians are leaving precisely because there is no work.”. The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine claims that “Those who accept receive documents that prevent them from leaving Russian regions for two years.”.

However, most of the time, refugees can leave these programs. ‘The authorities did not control their movements’As Belqis Wali says, adding that “Some took a taxi and left Russia via Estonia.”.

“Quick install software installed in holiday camps has told refugees to leave to make way for holidays. But where are they going?”

Svetlana Gnushkina, founder of the Russian Civil Assistance Committee for NGOs

in franceinfo

For those who have been sent to remote areas, it is very difficult to return to the border, especially without resources and without papers, and camp management may confiscate them sometimes. ‘It’s illegal’explains Svetlana Ganochkina: “If the refugees want to take them back, they should be allowed. But some TAP workers think they should supervise the refugees, thus preventing them from leaving.”

However, information on these technical work programs is still far from comprehensive. How many Ukrainians are missing and what happens to them? Accounts of other civilians, who were captured and then forcibly transferred to Belarus, may provide evidence of this. Why is Russia moving Ukrainians across the continent? In March, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry accused Moscow of wanting Use them as hostages.*. As the war progressed, the veil could be lifted little by little.

* The links followed by an asterisk are written in English.

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