Among the many war crimes committed by Russia on Ukrainian soil, deportations are among those perpetrated at the largest scale. According to varying estimates Russia has deported from 900,000 to 2,000,000 people, hundreds of thousands being children who are particularly vulnerable and have no option to leave Russia once forcefully moved there. In May Vladimir Putin signed a decree that simplifies the procedure of giving Russian citizenship to the orphans from Ukraine, facilitating the process of kidnapping and enforced assimilation of Ukrainian children.
Russian Commissioner for Children’s rights announced the creation of summer camps for children brought from Ukraine to “improve” their Russian skills – so children deported are additionally subjected to propaganda and brainwashing. Deportations – that violate the Geneva conventions and a considered a serious war crime added to the mounting evidence against Russian military and command in the international courts – are often accompanied by the establishment of “filtration camps” at the Russia-occupied territory. Ukrainian citizens are being subjected to humiliating and potentially life-threatening process of “filtration” aimed at finding people who might have relations to the military, law enforcement or are considered “nationalist”, with Ukrainian state symbols or even speaking Ukrainian language considered signs of nationalism by the occupying forces.
According to the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, deportations and filtration were planned by the Russian commandment in advance. The pre-meditated nature of these deportations draws worst historical parallels that Russia is well familiar with – after all, it has consistently used deportation as a tool to subjugate the nations that had been occupied.
Under the Soviet occupation, three Baltic states experienced two major waves of deportations in 1941 and 1949; in Estonia up to 20,7000 people were deported from a country the population of which is now 1.3 million people. Crimean Tatars survived massive deportations in 1944, and after the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 many were forced to leave their homes once again. Having considerable experience in the crime of deportation, modern Russian authorities frequently seize Ukrainian documents of the people subjected to filtration and send them to the Far East regions of Russia. Having no documents and no money, people find it hard to leave Russia, although many do, with a significant number of them managing to cross whole Russia and flee through the border with Estonia.
The fate of those Ukrainians who have been kidnapped, often separated from their families and forced to remain in Russia, however, remains one of the biggest security concerns in this war.