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A top U.S. official overseeing security in Europe warned Thursday that “tens of thousands” of Ukrainians have been forcibly sent to “filtration camps” or deported to Russian-controlled territories over the last three months.
U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSEC) Michael Carpenter warned in an address to the permanent council in Vienna that Russia’s aims in Ukraine are increasingly becoming a reality.
“While the Kremlin has clearly failed in its efforts to subjugate the entire Ukrainian nation and take over its capital with a quick decapitation strike, Russia’s plan to take over the southeast regions of Ukraine is moving ahead,” he said. “This effort includes a plan to engineer a more pliant population in these regions.”
Carpenter said the U.S. has assessed that Russian troops have forced thousands into “filtration camps” where their identification papers are taken from them and they are subjugated to “invasive and humiliating” screening processes.
Victims have described being forced to provide their fingerprints and remove their clothing, so they could be inspected for scars, tattoos or other defining features which are recorded by Russian troops.
Their cell phones are taken from them, their contacts and information are then downloaded and their personal biographic information is recorded on a “variety of databases,” he said.
Some victims have reportedly been interrogated by Russian officials.
Carpenter said several of these encampments have been set up across southern Ukraine and are also referred to as “registration camps” that Ukrainian citizens are sent to before being forcibly deported to Russian territories.
Civilians who were able to escape Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant between May 1 and May 6 were reportedly sent to such camps.
One survivor described how their bodies along with “women’s underpants” were inspected upon arrival while another a 17-year-old girl described how she was threatened with sexual violence.
“My legs started to tremble when a soldier who was lying on a mattress said [to another soldier]: ‘Don’t you like her? There will be more women later. We’ll find something’,” Carpenter said recounting her story. Her father was reportedly beaten “for no apparent reason” before they were able to leave the camp.
Women who knew Ukrainian servicemen were reportedly told they would “receive the men’s heads sent back to them in boxes.”
“If a person was suspected of being a ‘Ukrainian Nazi’, they took them to Donetsk for further investigation or murder…Everybody was afraid to be taken to Donetsk,” Carpenter said in retelling a victim’s account of their experience.
Another survivor said she overheard a conversation between two Russian soldiers as she underwent “filtration” outside of Mariupol with her family.
“What did you do with people who didn’t pass the filtration?” a Russian soldier asked another. The second soldier said, “Shot 10 and stopped counting.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has claimed that over 1 million people have been “relocated” from Ukraine to Russia since the war began in late February.