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.

Execution or Siberian labour camp for opposing Russia’s occupation of Ukrainian territory

Halya Coynash
Both collaborators and high-ranking Russian officials have dropped any pretence about both their treatment of, and future plans for eliminating Ukrainians living on and opposing Russia’s illegal occupation of their Ukrainian territory

Oleksiy Brazhnyk on the staged video in which the Russian invaders were supposedly ’deporting’ him to governmnent-controlled Ukraine. He has not been seen since then

Oleksiy Brazhnyk on the staged video in which the Russian invaders were supposedly ’deporting’ him to governmnent-controlled Ukraine. He has not been seen since then

Yevhen Balitsky, the collaborator Russia has installed as ‘governor’ of occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia oblast has not only boasted of the invaders’ ‘deportation’ of Ukrainian families, but has suggested that some may have been killed.  His revelations came in the same week that Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s security council, used both Soviet terminology and Soviet methods in proposing to send Ukrainians who oppose Russia’s occupation of their country to Siberian labour camps for so-called ‘re-education’

Russia and its local collaborators have long ‘boasted’ of supposed ‘deportation’ of those not accepting their armed occupation of Ukrainian territory.  The claim has always been that such individuals are ‘deported’ to Ukrainian-controlled territory, with videos shown of individuals being informed that they are facing ‘deportation’ and then, purportedly sent off on foot to reach free parts of the Zaporizhzhia oblast.  There had, in fact, already been concern as some of those who had, purportedly, been so ‘deported’, had simply vanished.

The independent Ukrainian publication RIA-Melitopol has reported several cases where families disappeared after videos were posted in which they were supposedly informed of their ‘deportation’ and sent, on foot, in the direction of government-controlled Zaporizhzhia oblast. They mention, for example, Tetiana and Oleksandr Nechet from the village of Skelki who had been held prisoner for three months before the supposed ‘deportation’.  The couple never reached free Ukrainian territory, and their daughter told RIA Melitopol that they had disappeared on 29 October 2022, after a search of their home.

In February 2023, the Russian occupiers also claimed to have ‘deported’ Oleksiy Brazhnyk, an engineer responsible for safety at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, and his colleague Roman Matviychuk.  The video of this alleged ‘deportation’ was posted almost six months after Brazhnyk, who had not concealed his strongly pro-Ukrainian views was abducted from his home.  His family say that there has been no sight of him since the claim that he had been ‘deported’ (details here).

Now Balitsky has effectively confirmed the worst fears about such disappearances. In an interview to a Russian propagandist, he said that they had “removed a large number of families.  Those who didn’t support ‘SVO’ [the ‘so-called ‘special military operation’, that is, Russia’s euphemism for its full-scale invasion of Ukraine], those who desecrated the flag, the Russian anthem and president of the Russian Federation.”   He claimed that whole families had been so ‘deported’ because their opinions could not be changed and, effectively, to save their lives since, purportedly, their lives were in great danger.  Not, one is asked to believe, because of the Russian invaders who arrived in tanks, and began shooting on peaceful protesters, and abducting and torturing local residents, but from the families “neighbours” who, allegedly, lynched people.  He claims that there were two months of anarchy.

in January 2023, Balitsky spoke in favour, both of the death penalty and of lynching.  Without providing any verifiable details, he described a rape and killing in claiming justification for advocating the introduction of the death penalty and  a horrific crime as justification for saying he would bring in the death penalty and suggested that he thought lynching was also warranted.  Although his alleged ‘example; there was of the type of crimes that Russian soldiers are certainly known to have committed in Kyiv oblast and other territory while under occupation, he was clearly also referring to people whose opposition to Russian occupation was behind what he terms ‘extremist activities’ .  In another chilling déjà vu from Soviet times, he suggests that whole families should be ‘deported’ for a person’s supposed “extremist activities” if they did not report him or her to the occupation ‘authorities’.

Balicky was speaking in an interview to a Russian propaganda channel in occupied Crimea during one of many trips outside occupied Zaporizhzhia oblast.  Balitsky has been startlingly open about the reason for this, namely that he has to fear for his life every second on occupied Ukrainian territory. 

Local collaborators and Russian military are almost certainly not acting on their own initiative   Moscow has behaved far more aggressively than 10 years ago in occupied Crimea.  While deportation for pro-Ukrainian views was decided at local level, Russian president Vladimir Putin allowed, back in May 2023, for Ukrainians to be deported as ‘foreigners’ from their own homes on Ukrainian territory for refusing to take Russian citizenship.   This, supposedly, is only if they are deemed “to be a threat to Russia’s national security” however the grounds for categorizing Ukrainians as a threat to Russia’s ‘national security’ include opposition to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.  

In any part of Ukraine that falls under Russian occupation, Ukrainians are forced to take Russian citizenship, or face elimination, abduction, torture and long prison sentences, or deportation, with the latter often equivalent to enforced disappearances.  Nor are high-ranking Russian officials even particularly hiding behind terms like ‘extremism’.  Dmitry Medvedev, former (nominal) Russian president and now deputy head of Russia’s security council has long been notorious for statements inciting to genocide against Ukrainians.  In June 2022, he was open about Russia’s plans, suggesting that it was in question whether Ukraine would exist in two years.  He has since made it abundantly clear that the Russian regime’s appetite will not be satisfied unless it gains control of Kyiv.

On 22 February, he was just as blunt about what any Russian occupation means for Ukrainians living on Ukrainian territory and continuing to impose a foreign state’s invasion.  He used a term from Soviet times – вредитель, ‘wrecker’, those who cause harm and are, therefore, the enemy.   

If these are people who harm Russia, they must be exposed and punished, sent to Siberia. That’s it, for re-education to corrective labour camps.”  They should, however try to ‘convince’ people on occupied territory that “we have returned for good”.

The Russian invaders have already abducted thousands of Ukrainian civilians.  Judging by the evidence uncovered after they were driven out of Kyiv oblast, Izium and other parts of Kharkiv oblast, it is, unfortunately, likely that many of those abducted were either killed immediately, or tortured to death.  Others have been illegally taken to occupied Crimea or Russia.  Many have been subjected to fake ‘trials’ on grotesque charges (such as ‘spying’) and sentenced to decades in Russian captivity.  Others are known to be held by Russia, incommunicado and without any charges having been laid.  

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