The Russian authorities have“interrogated,detained and forcibly deported” between 900,000 and 1.6 million Ukrainian citizens, including 260,000 children, from their homes to Russian territory, often to isolated regions in the Far East, US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The illegal transfer and deportation of protected persons,” Mr. Blinken said, “is a serious violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilians and is a war crime.”
Mr. Blinken noted that he would release the statement on the eve of the Ukraine Accountability Conference, which will take place in The Hague on Thursday. the conference website it says its purpose is “to ensure that war crimes committed during the war in Ukraine do not go unpunished.” Its hosts are the Dutch government, the International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s Office and the European Commission.
Russia has acknowledged that 1.5 million Ukrainians are now in Russia, but said they were evacuated for their own safety.
Ukrainian officials have long sounded the alarm over Russia’s deportations, with President Volodymyr Zelensky last month describing them as “one of Russia’s most heinous war crimes.” Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he said, the deportations have included more than 200,000 children.
Testimonies given to The New York Times and other media outlets by deportees who escaped Russia have included descriptions of leak sites and accounts of interrogations, beatings and torture of people believed to have ties to the armed forces of Ukraine and of disappearances.
European officials have described the leak sites as schools, sports centers and cultural institutions in parts of Ukraine recently seized by Russian forces.
From those sites, many Ukrainians have been transported to destinations throughout Russia, often to remote regions of Ukraine, near China or Japan, according to the testimonies.
Some US officials have previously raised concerns about the deportations, but gave only vague assessments of the scale.
Michael Carpenter, United States Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, he said during a speech in Vienna in May that many eyewitnesses had given detailed accounts of Russia’s “brutal interrogations” in filtration camps to which at least several thousand Ukrainians have been forced and deportations of the order of at least tens of thousands.
Mr. Blinken’s statement on Wednesday also pointed to reports that Russian forces were “deliberately” separating Ukrainian children from their parents and abducting others from orphanages. Eyewitnesses and survivors, according to the statement, described “frequent threats, harassment and incidents of torture by Russian security forces.”
In some cases, the statement says, Ukrainian passports were confiscated and issued with Russian passports instead, “in an apparent effort to change the demographic composition of parts of Ukraine.”
There was also mounting evidence, according to the statement, that Russian authorities were “detaining or disappearing thousands of Ukrainian civilians” who did not go through the screening process, including those affiliated with the Ukrainian military, territorial defense forces, media communication, government and civil society. groups
The statement said reports also indicated that Russian authorities had transported tens of thousands of people to detention centers inside Russian-controlled Donetsk, where many were tortured. Others had reportedly been “summaryly executed, according to evidence of Russian atrocities committed in Bucha, Mariupol and elsewhere in Ukraine,” he said.
Mr. Blinken’s statement said the United States called for an immediate end to the deportations and for the Russian authorities to release the detainees and allow them to return home. Independent outside monitors, according to the statement, should be allowed access to so-called screening facilities, which serve as a way station for many deportations, as well as places to which Ukrainians have been deported.
“President Putin and his government will not be able to participate in these systematic abuses with impunity,” the statement said. “Accountability is imperative.”