U.S. report identifies 21 ‘filtration’ locations run by Russia for processing Ukrainians

WASHINGTON, Aug 25 (Reuters) – Russia and its proxy forces in Ukraine operate 21 sites used to detain, interrogate and process prisoners of war and civilians. New report Yale University researchers have backed the US State Department as part of efforts to hold Moscow accountable.

The report, seen by Reuters ahead of its publication on Thursday, cites commercial satellite imagery and open-source information to identify separate locations with “high confidence” – including facilities that previously served as schools, markets and regular prisons. It also identifies a possible grave in a prison complex.

The Humanitarian Research Laboratory at the Yale School of Public Health, which produced the report, is a partner in the US State Department-funded Conflict Observatory launched in May to capture and analyze evidence of war crimes and other atrocities allegedly committed by Russia in Ukraine.

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Nathaniel Raymond, the lab’s executive director, said the findings showed that Russia and its proxies had set up a “filtration system” to sort out people in Russian-held areas who represented a “human rights emergency.”

Reports of abuse have already emerged from the site, including a prison complex near Olenivka, where 53 Ukrainian prisoners of war were allegedly killed in an explosion on July 29. Read more

Yale researchers in early April newly identified deformations in the earth consistent with individual or mass graves, reports that match a former inmate’s account that detainees were forced to dig graves at the time.

Although researchers did not reach any conclusions on the fate of Ukrainian prisoners of war in the prison, they did confirm that there had been further disturbances elsewhere in the compound before the July 27 explosion at Olenivka. The New York Times previously reported in July that the complex was in turmoil.

“The conditions are absolutely right for extreme violence and in many cases, as we saw in Olenivka, we have indications that we may have a five-alarm fire,” Raymond said, adding that he did not know how many civilians had gone through it or not. was still being held on site.

Russia’s defense and foreign ministries and its embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of deporting millions of people from Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine.

Moscow has denied deliberately targeting civilians since its February 24 invasion of Ukraine in what it calls a “special military operation” and says it is offering humanitarian aid to those who want to leave.

The Russian embassy in Washington said in July that US allegations of detaining Ukrainians in the occupied territories were an attempt to fuel “Russophobia” and discredit the Russian armed forces. Read on

‘Accountability is essential’

Thursday’s report focused on the Donetsk region, where Russia and its proxy, the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, seized most of the city of Mariupol in March. The city’s mayor said in April that about 40,000 of the city’s citizens had been forcibly moved to Russian-controlled territory or taken to Russia.

The report identified a system that brings civilians into conflict-affected areas, registers and interrogates them before either releasing them, detaining them or taking them to Russia.

The researchers verified 21 locations with at least five separate sources and believe seven more sites are part of the filtration system and may be verified at a later date, Raymond said.

The US National Intelligence Council said in June that it had identified 18 potential sites in Ukraine and western Russia that could be used for infiltration.

In a statement Thursday, the State Department called on Russia to end all infiltration and forced deportations and provide access to outside observers.

“President Putin and his government cannot continue to engage in these abuses with impunity. Accountability is imperative, and the United States and our partners will not remain silent,” the statement read.

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Reported by Simon Lewis and Daphne Saledakis; Edited by Mary Milliken and Alastair Bell

Our Standards: Principles of Thomson Reuters Trust.

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