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What are Russian “filtration camps”?

As President Biden this week announced a new wave of tough financial sanctions against Russia for alleged war crimes against Ukraine, new details have emerged of how Russian soldiers forcibly deported tens of thousands Ukrainians from the occupied areas and sent them to “filtration camps” for intense interrogation before shipping them to different cities in Russia, according to several reports.

The filtration camps, described as vast plots of military tents with rows of uniformed men, are where deported Ukrainians are photographed, fingerprinted, forced to hand over cellphones, passwords and documents identification, then interrogated by officers for hours before being sent to Russia. A satellite image captured by US firm Maxar Technologies last week offered the first glimpse of a camp in the Russian-held village of Bezimenne, giving insight into how the Russians treat Ukrainians and attempt to strip them of their identify. Ukrainian officials say more than 40,000 people have been forced into Russia against their will since last month.

Ukrainians share ‘degrading’ experiences in camps

Many Ukrainians have shared heartbreaking accounts with the Guardian of being taken from their homes and dropped off in a foreign Russian community.

“On March 15, Russian troops broke into our bomb shelter and ordered all the women and children out. It was not a choice,” a woman, who requested anonymity for fear for her safety, told the British newspaper. “People need to know the truth, that Ukrainians are being moved to Russia, the country we are dealing with.

“They went through my phone; they asked me if I knew anything about the Ukrainian army, if I had any friends in the army,” she added. “They also asked me what I thought of Ukraine, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and on the conflict. It was very degrading. »

What are Russian “filtration camps”?

A temporary accommodation center for evacuees at a school in Taganrog, Russia’s Rostov region, on March 17. (Maxim Romanov/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

This claim confirms a recent Telegram message from the Mariupol City Council that Russian soldiers abducted Ukrainian residents from the besieged port city of Mariupol, according to the English translation of the message.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, denied the accusations, calling the reports “lies”. He claimed that an excess of 420,000 Ukrainians voluntarily evacuated to Russia from dangerous conditions in Ukraine.

Ukrainians who have been driven from their homes, however, contradict this claim. They say Russian forces transported Ukrainians through Russian-held eastern Ukraine in groups of 200 to 300.

US Response to Filter Camps

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the United Nations, suggested at a UN Security Council briefing on Tuesday that there are similarities between the current Russian filter camps and the camps of concentration of Nazi Germany almost a century earlier.

“Reports indicate that Russian federal security agents are confiscating passports and IDs, taking away cell phones and separating families from each other,” she said. “I don’t need to specify what these so-called filtration camps look like. It’s scary and we can’t look away.

What are Russian “filtration camps”?

A damaged military bus, formerly marked National Guard of Ukraine, in the yard of a hospital in Mariupol on April 4. (Leon Klein/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The scale and force of the Russian deportations and widespread assaults on civilians remain unclear, but their impact has reverberated around the world.

“We’ve all seen the gruesome photos,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “Lifeless bodies lying in the streets, apparently summarily executed, with their hands tied behind their backs.” She called the reports of kidnappings of children, mayors, doctors, religious leaders and journalists deeply disturbing.

History of Filtration Camps

This is not the first time that Russia has been accused of using filter camps.

The term originated in Europe after the end of World War II, in the mid to late 1940s, according to Nick Baron, a history professor at the University of Nottingham in the UK. After millions of Soviet citizens broke free from Nazi control, many who lived outside the Soviet Union sought to return but were subjected to detention stations and camps for screening before readmission.

What are Russian “filtration camps”?

In 1999, in a truck at a Chechen-Ingush border post, a Chechen refugee is sitting on her belongings. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP via Getty Images)

Fifty years later, during the First Chechen War in the mid-1990s and the Second Chechen War in the early 2000s, as the small European nation fought for its independence, Russian forces again used these camps for internment. mass, according to NPR.

The Guardian at the time reported several accounts from escapees detailing the horror inside these filter camps. A Chechen man recalls men and women being raped by Russian guards, detainees beaten daily with iron bars and others forced to use their close quarters as sky toilets open.

Another Chechen survivor said Russian forces used the filter camps for “extermination”, citing various accounts describing suffocation, electric shocks to the genitals, mock executions and exposure to freezing temperatures. The Russians demanded a ransom from the Chechens, and those who could not pay were tortured, most of them believed to have died during the ordeal.

Human Rights Watch, an international human rights organization, detailed the brutal abuses and violence in these camps in a February 2020 report.

What are Russian “filtration camps”?

A child in a refugee camp in the Ingush Republic of the Russian Federation in 2002. (Alexander Sorin/Getty Images)

Thomas de Waal, a journalist who covered the war in the 1990s, told NPR last month that he saw similarities between the reports surfacing today and Russia’s actions back then.

“There are some pretty disturbing parallels,” de Waal told public radio. “The use of heavy artillery, the indiscriminate attack on an urban center. They bring back some pretty terrible memories for those of us who covered the Chechnya war of the 1990s.”

Two decades ago, Russia won a victory against Chechnya after these two wars.

Global Impact of Filter Camps

Offering some hope, according to the United Nations, the unlawful deportation, transfer or confinement of another constitutes a war crime. But the scope of any potential sanctions remains unclear.

International human rights group Amnesty International listed details of “extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings” in its latest press release, as an attempt to record alleged Russian war crimes demonstrating the brutality of Russian forces.

“Testimonies show that unarmed civilians in Ukraine are being killed in their homes and on the streets in acts of indescribable cruelty and shocking brutality,” Agnès Callamard, the group’s general secretary, said in the statement.

“The intentional killing of civilians is a human rights violation and a war crime. These deaths must be fully investigated and those responsible must be prosecuted, including up the chain of command. »

What are Russian “filtration camps”?

Civilians walk past a burned building in Mariupol on April 4. (Leon Klein/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Laura Mills, a researcher with the organization, hopes the stories she has personally verified will help bring justice to those involved.

“These are apparent war crimes,” Mills told Yahoo News. “They should be investigated and prosecuted as such.”

Ukrainian officials are hoping Russian resources and increased penalties will help them survive their greatest enemy. Biden’s most recent sanctions include banning new investment in Russia, imposing toughest financial sanctions on Russia’s largest bank and government officials and their family members, including two of Putin’s daughters .

“We’re going to stifle Russia’s ability to grow for years to come,” Biden said Wednesday.

The UK and other European countries have also tightened financial sanctions against Russia. Although they have yet to thwart the assault on Ukraine, the resilience of the much smaller Ukrainian defense shows vulnerability in Russia’s future.

Meanwhile, the appearance of mobile cremation machines has been reported alongside the murders of Ukrainian civilians still carried out by troops led by Putin. According to NBC News, reports of sightings of the machines are “credible” but there is no evidence that they were used. The mayor of Mariupol estimated on Wednesday that more than 5,000 Ukrainian civilians have been killed in this city alone since the end of February and that the toll continues to climb.

What are Russian “filtration camps”?

In Milan, a woman holds up a poster during a rally on Wednesday against President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. (Marco Tacca Pier/Getty Images)

According to NATO, around 7,000 to 15,000 Russian troops have been killed since Russia invaded Ukraine six weeks ago on February 24. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said at least 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed since then, according to The New York Times.

As of Thursday, more than 4.2 million Ukrainians had fled the country, with the majority – more than 2.4 million – finding refuge in Poland, according to the UN refugee agency.

“We want policymakers in every country to take this seriously,” Mills said. “[We want them] take war crimes seriously.


What happened this week in Ukraine? Check out this explainer from Yahoo Immersive to find out.

What are Russian “filtration camps”?


Cover thumbnail photo: Leon Klein/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images, Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP via Getty Images


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