Between the missile strikes and demolished cities, what happens to Ukrainian civilians caught in the crossfire of Russia’s invasion? Tragically, the answer is becoming more clear everyday; Russia has been forcing civilians into so-called “filtration” camps, where a bleak fate awaits those who survive the military attacks.
Reports show that Russian authorities have detained and deported 900,000 to 1.6 million Ukrainians since the start of their invasion. That includes about 260,000 children, some of whom are being separated from their parents, abducted, and put up for adoption in Russia. Let us be clear: Russians are kidnapping Ukrainian children. That is the true nature of these camps.
Eyewitnesses say that Russian soldiers are infamously aggressive towards civilians in the camps, often subjecting them to interrogations, beatings, and coercement. Russian forces have also collected personal information and even biometric data (fingerprints, facial images, etc.) from these civilians to further exert their control in the region.
“Soldiers came into our basement in the morning and said if we didn’t leave, we’d be shot,” said one woman who was taken to a filtration camp and forcibly resettled in Russia. “If I had a choice I would have never crossed the border to Russia.”
What is even more daunting is what happens to those Ukrainians who get “filtered out” in these camps; those assessed to be a threat or having ties to the Ukrainian military are taken to detention centers in the Russian-controlled east where they are reportedly tortured and even executed, consistent with reports of atrocities in Mairupol and Bucha. According to Ukraine’s General Prosecutor, tens of thousands of civilians have been taken to these centers after “filtration.”
Polish intelligence has identified at least 5 of these camps in Ukraine.
The Fourth Geneva convention on the protection of civilians is being breached by these camps, which makes Russia’s actions, yet again, a designated war crime.
Alongside their filtration efforts, Russian forces have been trying to indoctrinate Ukrainians. Since February, Putin has ordered his troops to distribute Russian passports to Ukrainians in occupied territories in the east and south. Ukrainians are pressured to accept Russian citizenship, speak only in Russian, and phase out the hryvnia currency in favor of the ruble.
SARFAN community, these civilians are being subject to barbaric war crimes. A huge problem allowing these events to continue is Moscow’s control of Russian media. We must do what we can to combat Putin’s propaganda. If you know anyone across the border in Russia, we ask that you share this information with them. Justice starts with awareness of these crimes.