Researchers say these sites are used by Russian forces and their allies to process, register, interrogate and detain Ukrainians who attempt to leave Russian-occupied territory. Persons detained may include civilians and prisoners of war.
The Yale School of Public Health Humanitarian Research Laboratory (Yale HRL), in collaboration with the US State Department-supported Conflict Observatory, used open-source information and high-resolution satellite imagery to map them. .
According to the report, there is evidence to suggest they were in place even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began and expanded after Mariupol was captured in April.
“The conditions reported by those released from the facilities examined here may amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under international humanitarian and human rights law,” the study said, adding that “the conditions include overcrowded facilities , a lack of access to adequate sanitation facilities, insufficient food and clean water, exposure to the elements, denial of medical care and reliance on isolation.”
“In some specific cases, the treatment described as having been endured by those released, such as the use of electric shocks, extreme conditions of solitary confinement and physical assault, may potentially amount to torture if proven,” indicates the study.
In a separate press release on Thursday, the US State Department described the “unlawful transfer and deportation of protected persons” described in the study as “a serious violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilians and constitutes a war crime”.
The Volnovakha correctional colony is one of the sites described in the study. Detailed results indicate that it is a long-term facility for those who did not pass the filtration as well as prisoners of war who surrendered after the siege of the Azovstal steelworks.
The study notes the accounts of apparent survivors who described among other things: overcrowded cells, forced labor and even torture. Yale HRL says it has identified two areas of disturbed earth along the south and southwest sections of this facility that appear to be mass graves.
An account cited in the report from a person described as a “survivor” also claimed that a cellmate worked digging graves inside the settlement. In July there was a deadly explosion in which Ukrainian separatists said 53 POWs were killed, but satellite images used for the report predate that.
The Yale study notes that “without further investigation, including the ability to excavate these locations independently, no definitive determination can be made about what these sites may contain based solely on the evidence in this report.” .
Threats and humiliations
In the Yale study, the Russian Embassy in Washington said the system “concerns checkpoints for civilians leaving the active combat zone. In order to avoid sabotage operations by the battalions of Ukrainian nationalists, Russian soldiers carefully inspect vehicles heading to safe areas”. He adds that he “will detain bandits and fascists” and that the Russian army does not create barriers for civilians but helps them by providing them with food and medicine.
In a CNN report from July, Dmitry Vaschenko, an official with Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry in Taganrog, said housing would be given to Ukrainians, who were also free to seek work and send their children to school. ‘school.
“When hostilities come to an end in the future, all these arrivals will be able to make the decision to return to their homeland. Anyone who wishes to stay in Russia, the Russian government takes on such an obligation – they will receive a full range of social services and are protected, ” he said.
Asked about the process for admitting refugees to Russia, he said there were “screening points” at the border.
“They check people who seem aggressive towards the Russian Federation,” he said. “The filtering happens precisely upon arrival, there are no ‘mass camps’. They are border crossing points, nothing more.”
The self-proclaimed DPR has denied accusations by Ukrainian authorities of unlawful detentions, screening and mistreatment of Ukrainian citizens and said those arriving at what it calls ‘reception centres’ are being properly fed and receiving care medical.
“The Donetsk Oblast Filtration System operated by Russia and its proxies represents an urgent human rights emergency,” said Nathaniel Raymond, executive director of Yale HRL in the Yale press release. School of Public Health. “International monitors need unhindered access to these facilities today. Every day that passes without the presence of independent monitors in these places increases the risk that serious human rights abuses will occur with impunity.”
According to the study’s methodology, “each source was assessed using criteria established by Berkeley’s Protocol for Open Source Digital Investigations.”
He added that the data points “were cross-checked with recent, very high-resolution satellite imagery. Five independent sources had to corroborate the location of a site and the seepage activities believed to be occurring there for the site to be included in report. Twenty-one sites meet or exceed this threshold.”