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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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Ukrainian civilians disappear without trace after the Russians claim to have ‘humanely deported’ them

25.01.2023   
Halya Coynash

Supposed ’deportation’ Screenshot from a pro-Russian Telegram channel, Larysa Dolya, missing since 11 January

Supposed ’deportation’ Screenshot from a pro-Russian Telegram channel, Larysa Dolya, missing since 11 January

Larysa Hryhorivna Dolya has not been seen since fighters linked with the notorious Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov turned up at her home in the village of Tarasivka, Zaporizhzhia oblast, on 11 January and took her away.  She is one of many Ukrainian civilians whom the Russian invaders have claimed to have ‘deported’ from occupied territory, but who have simply disappeared.

The Kadyrov fighters who seized Dolya told her family that they were taking her for interrogation and that she would return in two days.  Her relatives went to the Russian military command on 12 January and were then told that the paramedic was in ‘prison’.  The Russians claimed that this was because Dolya had both refused to accept Russian citizenship and to collaborate and had, they alleged, encouraged other Ukrainians to not take Russian money.

On 18 January, the Russians told Larysa’s brother that she had been ‘deported’ to government-controlled territory from occupied Vasylivka.  She has not, however, arrived in government-controlled Zaporizhzhia, and there are clearly grave concerns as to why the Russians are lying.  

The news of her disappearance comes just days after Ivan Fedorov, Mayor of Melitopol, reported that residents of the Zaporizhzhia oblast “whom the occupiers deport vanish without trace in Vasylivka.”

Fedorov explained that on 15 December, the Russians had closed the only route out of occupied territory via Vasylivka, to government-controlled Zaporizhzhia.  They had claimed that this was merely for the New Year break and that the route would again be opened on 15 January.  This, however, has not happened.  The Russians had pretended to make a “gesture of unheard-of generosity and allowed children, women and the elderly” to travel the ten kilometre journey on foot.

The Russians have also claimed to be acting ‘humanely’ by ‘deporting’ Ukrainians whose pro-Ukrainian position is described as being ‘extremist’.  The invaders and local collaborators openly speak of stripping people of all of their positions, ‘deporting’ them with just their passport and “a bottle of water”..  Such so-called ‘deportations’, with masked individuals reading out the supposed ‘decision’ on expulsion are videoed and widely circulated on pro-Russian Telegram channels and Russian media. 

There would be absolutely nothing ‘humane’ about such methods even without the doubts as to where the civilians abducted are actually taken.  This is the behaviour of terrorists, with whole families targeted. On 20 January, Yevhen Balitsky, a local collaborator whom the Russians have labelled the ‘head of the Zaporizhzhia oblast’, openly threatened that entire families would be ‘deported’ if their members did not report relatives taking part in so-called ‘extremist activities’ (namely having a pro-Ukrainian position and opposing the invaders).

As reported, the Russian invaders first threatened ‘deportation’ from occupied parts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts in July 2022. Such expulsions were to be for pro-Ukrainian views and for what was labelled “discrediting” the invaders, i.e. circulating truthful information about Russia’s invasion and the crimes it is committing on Ukrainian territory. 

The move was clearly on Moscow’s orders, with the Russian-installed collaborators in both areas signing ‘decrees’ on 15 July threatening such expulsion within 24 hours (more details here).

There were earlier cases where Ukrainian civilians were first seized, tortured and imprisoned for long periods, but then genuinely released.  The Media Initiative for Human Rights spoke with a young couple who were seized while posting patriotic flyers around Melitopol.

There are, however, also a huge number of civilians whose abduction has never been admitted, but who are believed to be imprisoned, and have almost certainly been or are being tortured, by the invaders.

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