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.

Russia stages illegal raids against Ukrainians as supposed 'foreigners' in occupied Ukraine

Halya Coynash
The invading power is even refusing critical medication to children unless their parents accept Russian citizenship

Russian invader Photo posted by Ukraine’s Human Rights Ombudsperson

Russian invader Photo posted by Ukraine’s Human Rights Ombudsperson

The Russian-imposed ‘authorities’ have carried out raids against those claimed to be ‘illegal migrants’, with these including Ukrainians.  The latter are treated as ‘illegal foreigners’ if they have not agreed to accept a passport from the invading state. 

Pavlo Lisiansky, founder of the East Human Rights Group, reported on 13 October, that the latest raids by Russia’s FSB and police had led to 31 people being detained in occupied parts of Luhansk, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia oblast.  Of these, according to Lisiansky, 18 were Ukrainian citizens.  The FSB send the ‘material’ in each such illegal case to a ‘court’ with those detained prosecuted under Article 18.3 § 1.1 of Russia’s administrative code.  This means a fine, detention in a holding unit and then ' ‘expulsion’. With respect to the Ukrainian citizens, the aggressor state is thus violating international law by applying its own legislation and driving Ukrainians from their homes on Ukrainian soil.

As reported, Russia is using medical supplies and humanitarian aid as weapons to coerce Ukrainians into taking Russian citizenship. There have already been many reports of children being refused vital medication unless parents take on Russian citizenship.  The Mariupol City Council stated back in September 2023 that a Mariupol resident with diabetes had been refused insulin at the local hospital because he did not have Russian citizenship. The Centre for Journalist Investigations has also 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.   

News of Donbas reported on 17 October that from 1 January 2024, all access to medical services on occupied territory will be blocked to those who have not taken citizenship.  People will be forced to have an insurance policy which is only issued to those with Russian citizenship.  From the New Year, only ambulance and limited emergency services will be provided to those without a Russian passport.  Russia is currently expending efforts and money on encouraging people to take such insurance, while at the same time putting people before the most brutal of choices, with this literally for many a question of life or death.

News of Donbas spoke with Oleksandr Pavlichenko, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union.  He says what Russia is doing “imperialist policy aimed at destroying Ukrainian identity. The refusal to recognize that they are an occupying power and must observe the rights of the civilian population under temporary occupation. In connection with this there have been decrees, linked with the effectively enforced passportization [of the population] and restriction of the rights of those who don’t want to receive passports or other registration documents. They are seen as foreign citizens and are being prevented from enjoying those rights that the population of occupied territory have, including access to education and to medical care.

Many Ukrainians resist adopting Russian citizenship, in part because they fear being accused of having in that way ‘collaborated’ with the Russian invaders.  In fact, however, Russia used the same methods in occupied Crimea from 2014, and Kyiv has clearly stated that there is no liability if people are effectively prevented from surviving themselves and caring for their children without a Russian passport.  The same applies on any other territory, temporarily under Russian occupation.

There are, however, other compelling reasons for not taking Russian citizenship.  As Pavlichenko points out, a Russian passport is not simply a document enabling people to receive medical care, etc.  Citizenship also carries various obligations, including that of military service.  Even before Russia claimed to have annexed parts of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts and began forcibly imposing its citizenship, there were fears that such enforced passportization would enable Russia to mobilize Ukrainian men on occupied territory and send them to fight other Ukrainians.

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