war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

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Russia forcibly mobilizes Ukrainian men in occupied Melitopol and deports women for patriotism

Halya Coynash

Melitopol under Russian occupation Photo posted by Hromadske Radio

Melitopol under Russian occupation Photo posted by Hromadske Radio

The Russian invaders are forcibly deporting Ukrainians from their homes in occupied parts of the Zaporizhzhia oblast for as little as a T-shirt with the Ukrainian flag or opposition to the sham ‘referendum’ Russia staged in an attempt to justify its annexation of more Ukrainian territory. Such deportation may be less violent than abductions, torture and killings of Ukrainian civilians which the Russians begin as soon as they occupy a place, but they are still a war crime. The same too applies to the seizure of Ukrainian men on the street or at their homes, in order to forcibly mobilize them to fight in Russia’s war against Ukraine.

According to Ivan Fedorov, Mayor of Melitopol, the Russians are carrying out such deportations on a daily basis.  He cited the example of a woman who had been held prisoner for a month and beaten because she didn’t know the Russian language, before being deported.   In a separate interview on 7 October, Fedorov reported that two women had been deported. The first had been taken to the last checkpoint in Vasylivka and left there after the Russians found a plan for children studying online according to the Ukrainian curriculum on her telephone.  Another woman had been deported, and forced to walk to unoccupied Zaporizhzhia, after the Russians found a T-shirt with the Ukrainian flag.

The invaders themselves and collaborators are, in no way, denying such practice.  On 3 October, the occupation ‘police’ reported the deportation of a Ukrainian woman from the village of Menchikury.  Parroting the Kremlin’s narrative, they called the woman a ‘Nazi’, with this purely because she supported the democratically elected Ukrainian authorities (whom they label ‘the criminal Kyiv regime’).  The video shows a man in a balaclava reading out ‘the decision’, saying that the woman, who remains unnamed, is being forcibly expelled from the oblast as a form of punishment.

Such videos have appeared quite frequently, with little or no details about those whom the invaders have allegedly merely deported.  It is, in fact, possible that in some cases the videos are staged, and the people have, instead, been taken prisoner.

Worth noting that plans for such ‘deportation’ far precede the sham referendum and supposed annexation of the parts of Donetsk; Luhansk; Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts under Russian occupation. 

On 15 July, in a move that was clearly synchronized and organized from Moscow, the  Russian occupation administrations in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts signed ‘decrees’ envisaged the forced removal of people from the relevant area within 24 hours. The reports on, for example, Russia’s Interfax claimed that it was so-called ‘extremists’ who were to be deported, however the documents and comments from the Russian-installed collaborators left no doubt as to who would be targeted (more details here).

This is not the only form of terror against Ukrainians on occupied territory.  The invaders immediately began abducting Ukrainians for their pro-Ukrainian position, or because they or somebody in the family was or had been in the Ukrainian Armed Forces.  Fedorov reports that in the past seven months, only 700 civilians have been taken prisoner.

He also points out that Melitopol men are particularly suffering from the Russian invaders, with them essentially grabbed from the street and taken to the so-called Russian military recruitment office.  At present, they are being forced to provide personal data, with this clearly aimed at forcibly mobilizing them as soon as the order comes from Moscow.

The danger to all Ukrainian men on occupied territory has been clear since Russian leader Vladimir Putin announced his so-called ‘partial mobilization’, and, via puppet collaborators, staged a blitzkrieg fake ‘referendum on annexing Ukrainian territory.  

Both forced deportation and mobilization are in clear and flagrant breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Yury Usmanov, from the Regional Centre for Human Rights, points out that it is a war crime to call up residents from occupied territory, making them fight in the army of the invading state.  Although doubtless important, as he stresses, that all such crimes are being recorded, Russia has been guilty of this shocking violation in occupied Crimea since early 2015, and it is first and foremost imperative to protect those in immediate danger of mobilization.  Fedorov is, therefore, urging Ukrainian families to evacuate as quickly as possible, however Russia has already made this next to impossible, with the only real route via occupied Crimea, through Russia to Georgia or Estonia, an EU country.  Even the latter option has become difficult and, Fedorov notes, the Russians treat Ukrainians “like animals”, forcing them into a separate queue and only letting through some of the huge number waiting.  Such terror, he says, intensified after the pseudo referendum.

Update   Fedorov's advice was given before the massive 'explosion' on the illegal bridge between Kerch in occupied Crimea and Russia.  It is likely that options for crossing into third countries via Crimea and then Russia have now been curtailed.

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