The United States estimates that Russian forces “sent at least several thousand Ukrainians” for treatment at Russia’s so-called filtration centers “and evacuated at least tens of thousands more to Russia or Russian-controlled territory,” according to the US Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said Michael Carpenter on Thursday.
The forced evictions — and the reported violence people are subjected to in the so-called filtration centers — constitute war crimes, Carpenter said, according to the transcript of his speech to the OSCE Permanent Council.
“Numerous eyewitness reports indicate that the ‘filtering’ involves beating and torturing individuals to determine if they owe the slightest allegiance to the Ukrainian state,” Carpenter said.
Some background: A CNN investigation in April revealed that Russian forces and allied Separatist soldiers were taking Mariupol residents to a so-called “filtration center” in Bezimenne, where they were registered before being sent on to Russia, many against their will. According to the Ukrainian government and local Mariupol officials, tens of thousands of Ukrainian citizens have been forcibly deported to Donetsk People’s Republic and Russia since the beginning of the war.
“Survivors of this process describe a forced multi-destination journey through various ‘filtration’ waypoints in Russian-controlled eastern Ukraine and eventually across the border into Russia itself,” noted Carpenter. “Survivors describe these centers as makeshift camps of military tents or civilian infrastructure such as schools or sports centers. Commercial satellite imagery shows these camps at various locations in south-eastern Ukraine.”
The US Mission to the OSCE declined to discuss the sources of the information but said it was confident in the assessment and the scope of the figures given.
According to Carpenter, the victims described an “invasive and humiliating” inspection process at these centers.
“Russian soldiers photograph victims from different angles, fingerprint them and physically examine them for tattoos, inspect their cell phones and download their contacts and data onto devices, and record their biographical information in a variety of databases… In some cases, Russian soldiers have been seized Passports, ID documents and cell phones all together,” Carpenter said.
“Once in Russia, survivors report that some Ukrainian citizens are allowed to stay with friends and family in Russia, but people without money or papers are put on trains heading to cities hundreds of miles away to be rescued by Russian authorities getting jobs.” he added.