Russia’s mass kidnappings of Ukrainians are a page out of a wartime playbook – and evidence of genocide

Following months of speculation, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed on July 13, 2022, that Russia had forcibly relocated between 900,000 to 1.6 million Ukrainians into Russia.

Blinken cited various sources, including eyewitness accounts and the Russian government, to confirm that Russia is removing Ukrainians from their country and making them pass through filtration camps, where some are detained and even disappear.

Approximately 260,000 of these Ukrainian deportees are children, including orphans and others separated from their parents.

Blinken, in addition to major human rights organizations, says the Russian deportations may be a war crime.

Russia acknowledges that it has moved Ukrainian adults and children out of the war-torn country, but has said the moves are “voluntary” and done for “humanitarian” reasons.

But Russia has a history of forcibly moving large numbers of civilians as a war and political tactic.

Other aggressors of war have also forced civilians to move for various reasons – like eliminating a perceived security threat, or the potential to grab the wealth, possessions and property the deportees are forced to leave behind.

In the process of achieving these two aims, perpetrators often commit atrocity crimes, a broad international legal term that encompasses war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. Distinct but overlapping, these atrocity crimes can all involve mass deportation. The United Nations’ definition of genocide includes the forced transfer of children.

Russia’s mass deportation of Ukrainians implicates it in all three of these crimes.

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