The United States estimates that Russian troops sent “at least several thousand Ukrainians” to be processed in Russia’s so-called filtration centers “and evacuated at least tens of thousands more to Russia or Russian-controlled territory,” the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Protection. cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said Michael Carpenter on Thursday.
The forced displacement — and the reported violence faced by those in the so-called filtration centers — amount to war crimes, Carpenter said, according to the transcript of his comments to the OSCE Permanent Council.
“Numerous eyewitness accounts indicate that ‘filtering out’ involves individuals being beaten and tortured to determine whether they owe the slightest allegiance to the Ukrainian state,” Carpenter said.
Some background: A CNN investigation in April revealed that Russian troops and allied separatist soldiers took the residents of Mariupol to a so-called “filtration center” in Bezimenne, where they were registered before being sent to Russia, many against their will. The Ukrainian government and local Mariupol officials say tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians have been forcibly deported to the Donetsk People’s Republic and Russia since the start of the war.
“Survivors of this process describe a forced multi-destination journey through various ‘filtration’ waypoints in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine, and eventually across the border into Russia itself,” Carpenter noted. Survivors describe these centers as either makeshift encampments composed of military tents or civilian infrastructure such as schools or sports centers. Commercial satellite images show these encampments in various locations in southeastern Ukraine.
The US mission to the OSCE declined to discuss the sources of the information, but said it was confident in the assessment and magnitude of the figures reported.
According to Carpenter, victims described an “invasive and humiliating” inspection process at these centers.
“Russian soldiers photograph victims from different angles, fingerprint and physically examine them for tattoos, inspect their cell phones and download their contacts and data onto devices, and record their biographical information in various databases… In some cases, Russian soldiers confiscated passports , IDs and cell phones together,” Carpenter said.
“Once in Russia, survivors report that some Ukrainian citizens are allowed to stay with friends and relatives living in Russia, but people without money or documents are being put on trains to cities hundreds of miles away to get jobs from Russian authorities. ” he added.