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Russian puppet leader admits deportation of Ukrainians, hints at executions in occupation - ISW

22 February, 2024 Thursday
11:50

Yevgeny Balitsky, Russian-appointed governor of the Zaporizhzhia region, acknowledged the forced deportation of Ukrainian citizens and hinted that the Russians are executing Ukrainians

The Institute for the Study of War reports this with reference to Balitsky’s interview.

According to him, the Russian occupation authorities “expelled a large number of families...who did not support the ‘special military operation’” or who “insulted” Russia, including the Russian flag, anthem, or Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

Balitsky tried to justify these actions, which constitute war crimes, by claiming that the forced deportation of Ukrainian families was for their own benefit, as occupation authorities would have had to “deal” with them in an even “harsher” way in the future, or other pro-Russian citizens would have killed them.

Balitsky said that the occupation authorities “gave [the deported families] the opportunity to leave” but deported some by force after “giving them a water bottle” at the border.

He also said that the occupation authorities had to make “extremely harsh decisions that [he] will not be talking about” - analysts suggest that Balitsky hinted that the Russian occupation forces are executing Ukrainians without trial or investigation.

It is noted that Russia is trying to destroy the Ukrainian language, culture, history, ethnicity and identity, including through actions that violate the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

“Balitsky’s statements about Russian deportations of Ukrainian citizens critical of the Russian occupation indicate that Russian deportation campaigns in part intend to Russify populations in occupied Ukraine through coercion and fear,” the analysts write.

Deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia: what is known

In the context of a full-scale invasion, Russia is deporting Ukrainian children en masse from the occupied territories of Ukraine. They are taken to the occupied Crimea, Russia or Belarus, allegedly for rehabilitation or to rest in camps.

On March 17, the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Russian Commissioner for Children's Rights Maria Lvova-Belova. They are suspected of forcibly deporting Ukrainian children.

On April 27, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recognized the deportation of residents of the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine to Russia as genocide and welcomed the issuance of arrest warrants for Putin and Russian Commissioner for Children's Rights Maria Lvova-Belova by the International Criminal Court.

The same day, Vladimir Putin signed a decree allowing for the deportation of Ukrainians for refusing to accept Russian passports.

A special report presented by the OSCE on May 4 stated that Russia's forced deportation of Ukrainian children could be recognized as a crime against humanity.

On May 29, Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Dmytro Lubinets spoke at an informal meeting of the UN Security Council on the issue of Russia's abduction of children from the occupied territories of Ukraine. The Ombudsman said that Russia deliberately changes legislation to make it impossible for Ukrainian children to return home and uses, among other things, the forced change of their citizenship to Russian.

Lubinets also noted that Russia does not provide any data on Ukrainian deported children - it is not even known where they are and in what conditions. He also said that Russians use child labour and militarize Ukrainian children in the temporarily occupied territories.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories Iryna Vereshchuk said that Russia is changing the names and dates of birth of illegally deported children.

In return, the Russian State Duma stated that 700,000 Ukrainian children had been deported to Russia since 2014.

On July 17, the UK government imposed new sanctions against Russians involved in the illegal removal of children from Ukraine. These include the Russian Ministers of Culture and Education.

On August 1, the US State Department called on Russia to stop deporting Ukrainian children from the occupied territories and to return them home.

On November 23, the BBC wrote that the leader of the Just Russia political party, 70-year-old Sergei Mironov, adopted a 10-month-old girl abducted from the Kherson regional orphanage.

On December 7, 2023, the Verkhovna Rada, Ukrainian parliament, Commissioner for Human Rights Dmytro Lubinets said that the deportation of 19,540 Ukrainian children by Russia has been officially confirmed.

On January 25, PACE called on EU parliaments to recognize the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia as a war crime.

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