The United States on Thursday accused Russia of forcibly relocating tens of thousands of Ukrainians to its territories, who often stand out for their resistance to the invasion.
These statements support the claims of the Ukrainian government, which estimates that nearly 1.2 million people have been deported to Russia or to Russian-controlled territory and has denounced the so-called “sorting camps” in which Moscow is interrogating detainees.
Michael Carpenter, the US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, said testimonies testified to “brutal interrogations” in the camps.
“Evidence of this brutality and forced displacement is happening right now, as we speak, and these actions are tantamount to war crimes,” Carpenter told the organization in Vienna. “We must not allow this evil to continue,” he said.
“The United States estimates that Russian forces have relocated at least several thousand Ukrainians to these ‘sorting camps’ and evacuated at least tens of thousands more to Russia or Russian-controlled territory, sometimes without informing them of the final their destination, “he said.
Carpenter said thousands had fled just from Mariupol, the strategic city that has been reduced to rubble in a scorched earth campaign by Russia.
Citing a survivor, Carpenter said “everyone was afraid to be transferred to Donetsk,” the eastern part of Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists.
If anyone is accused of being a “Ukrainian Nazi”, a favorite characterization of Russian President Vladimir Putin, he is being transferred to Donetsk “for further investigation or assassination,” the survivor said.
The Pentagon also said Monday that it had indications that Ukrainians were being forcibly transferred to Russia, although it did not give numbers.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in early April, six weeks after the start of the Russian invasion, that thousands of Ukrainians had been sent to Russian territory.
But that number has since risen to more than 1.19 million, including at least 200,000 children, Ukrainian ombudsman Lyutmila Denisova said recently.