Ukraine live updates: WNBA star returns to Russian court after pleading guilty

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Credit…Alexander Ermoshenko/Reuters

The Russian authorities have“interrogates,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, the Secretary of State said on Wednesday. American Antony J. Blinken in a statement.

“The unlawful transfer and deportation of protected persons,” Mr. Blinken said, “constitutes a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilians and constitutes a war crime.”

Blinken said he was issuing the statement on the eve of the Ukraine Accountability Conference, which is being held in The Hague on Thursday. The conference’s website says its goal is “to ensure that war crimes committed during the war in Ukraine will not go unpunished.” Its hosts are the Dutch government, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and the European Commission.

Russia has acknowledged that 1.5 million Ukrainians are currently 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 describing them last month as “one of Russia’s most heinous war crimes”. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, he said, deportations have included more than 200,000 children.

Testimonies given to the New York Times and other media by deportees who fled Russia have included descriptions of leak sites and accounts of interrogations, beatings and torture of people believed to be connected. with the Ukrainian armed forces, and disappearances.

European officials described the filtration sites as schools, sports centers and cultural institutions in parts of Ukraine recently seized by Russian forces.

From these sites, many Ukrainians were transported to destinations across Russia – often to remote parts of Ukraine, near China or Japan, according to reports.

Some U.S. officials have previously raised concerns about the deportations, but have given only vague assessments of the scale.

Michael Carpenter, the US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said during a speech in Vienna in May that many witnesses gave detailed accounts of the “brutal interrogations”. of Russia. in filtration camps in which at least several thousand Ukrainians had been forced; and deportations in the order of at least tens of thousands of Ukrainians.

Blinken’s statement on Wednesday also noted reports that Russian forces were “deliberately” separating Ukrainian children from their parents and abducting others from orphanages. According to the statement, witnesses and survivors described “frequent threats, harassment and incidents of torture by Russian security forces”.

In some cases, the statement said, Ukrainians’ passports were confiscated and Russian passports were issued to them instead, “in an apparent effort to change the demographic makeup of parts of Ukraine.”

There was also mounting evidence, the statement said, that Russian authorities were “detaining or disappearing thousands of Ukrainian civilians” who had not gone through the screening process, including those affiliated with the Ukrainian military. , Territorial Defense Forces, media, government and civil society. groups.

The statement said reports also indicate that Russian authorities transported tens of thousands of people to detention centers inside Russian-controlled Donetsk, where many were tortured. According to reports, he said others were “summarily executed, consistent with evidence of Russian atrocities committed in Bucha, Mariupol and other places in Ukraine.”

Mr. Blinken’s statement indicates that the United States calls for an immediate halt to the deportations and asks the Russian authorities to release those detained and allow them to return home. Independent outside observers, the statement said, should be allowed access to the so-called filtration facilities, which serve as staging posts for many deportations, as well as to places where Ukrainians have been deported.

“President Putin and his government will not be able to engage in these systematic abuses with impunity,” the statement said. “Accountability is imperative.”


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