Ukrainians in occupied territory refused life-saving insulin unless they take Russian citizenship
Russia and its ‘occupation regimes are openly threatening Ukrainians who have serious medical conditions with death if they refuse to take Russian passports. The situation is especially critical for those who need daily injections of insulin, which, in at least two occupied parts of Ukraine, are being denied local residents without proof of Russian citizenship.
Such appalling forms of coercion, and the evident lack of local demand for Russian passports, are worth stressing since Russia has already staged fake ‘referendums’ and claimed that almost 100% of the population in occupied parts of the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts voted ‘to join Russia’. Moscow is near certain on 11 or 12 September to claim similarly improbable figures for the ‘turnout’ at its pseudo-elections on occupied Ukrainian territory and ‘overwhelming support’ for Russia’s ruling ‘United Russia’ party. It is quite clear that the reality is very different with Ukrainians facing threats of deportation, of having their children taken from there, or, literally, threats to their life if they do not take the citizenship they do not want.
The Mariupol City Council on 6 September that in occupied Mariupol, it really has become “a Russian passport or your life” for local diabetics. They have learned from a Mariupol resident suffering from diabetes that he was refused insulin at the local hospital because he does not have Russian citizenship. Mariupol Mayor Vadim Boichenko notes that “this is the occupiers’ policy aimed at russification of the city at any price.” In a city devastated by Russian bombing and shelling, Russia is also making humanitarian aid contingent on residents being able to produce Russian passports, with the same true of employment and the ability to move about freely. As Boichenko puts it, “people have to choose – either receive a document and have at least some kind of rights, or simply die”,
None of this is strictly new. Russia took little time after its invasion and annexation of Crimea to make it effectively impossible to survive without taking Russian citizenship. In areas invaded since 24 February 2022, the aggressor state began threatening such methods almost immediately. There was already evidence that the threats were no empty bluster. In July this year, the Centre for Journalist Investigations learned from residents of occupied Hornostaiivka (Kherson oblast) that a local resident, aged only 63-65, had died after being refused medical treatment because he didn’t have a Russian passport. It was first learned in early June that Russia was using healthcare as a weapon of coercion, with occupation regimes clearly under pressure to ensure maximum ‘russification’ before the fake elections in September. Such measures were also reported in occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia oblast. Parents there were also threatened with having their children taken away and placed in children’s homes if the parents do not enrol them in Russian-controlled ‘schools’, with the invaders also making such enrolment impossible without Russian citizenship. After the catastrophic flooding caused by Russia’s destruction of the Kakhovka Dam on 6 June 2023, there were reports that, as well as shooting at volunteers trying to rescue people in liberated Kherson, the Russian emergency services refused to rescue 14 people in occupied Oleshki who didn’t have Russian citizenship.
It is quite incredible that local collaborators are acting as though it is quite reasonable to use life-saving medication as a method of coercion. On 10 August 2023, Oleksandr Dudka, the Russian-appointed ‘head’ of Lazurne in Kherson He announced that medicines, and in the first instance, insulin, purportedly purchased from the Russian state budget, would not be issued to “citizens of another country, that is citizens of Ukraine”. Dudka then went on to repeat threats issued earlier by the aggressor state and other collaborators. He waved a piece of paper around saying that they had a list of all children whose parents had not enrolled them in the Russian occupation ‘schools’. Such parents would first face ‘administrative, then criminal’ liability and would then be put on coaches and taken to the demarcation line between government-controlled and occupied territory.
Parts of Dudka’s address would be comical were the reality not so shocking. In threatening to also deprive Ukrainians living in their own country of Russian ‘humanitarian aid’, he falls into absurd pathos. He criticizes those “who have not taken the passport of the country that feeds them, provides them with benefits, humanitarian aid and guarantees their personal security.”
Dudka is referring to the country that invaded Ukraine, bringing unprecedented destruction of people’s homes, infrastructure, as well as causing mass carnage and suffering. If local residents in occupied territory are in need of ‘humanitarian aid’, it is precisely because Russia has wrought devastation and shattered people’s lives. As for the claim that Russia is “guaranteeing people’s personal safety”, this is breathtakingly cynical. Russia has not only confined itself to bombing and shelling civilian targets. In every city or area that has fallen under its control, Russian soldiers, often together with the FSB [security service] have taken Ukrainian civilians hostage, savagely torturing and sometimes killing them. It is no accident that the prosecutors and war crimes investigators who have arrived in areas liberated after weeks or months of Russian occupation invariably find torture chambers in basements or schools, and unmarked, often mass graves.