A senior U.N. human rights official said Wednesday that her office has verified that Russian soldiers and affiliated groups subject Ukrainian civilians to an invasive process called “filtration,” and called for access to those being detained by Russia.
“In cases that our office has documented, during ‘filtration,’ Russian armed forces and affiliated armed groups have subjected persons to body searches, sometimes involving forced nudity, and detailed interrogations about the personal background, family ties, political views and allegiances of the individual concerned,” Ilze Brands Kehris, assistant secretary-general for human rights, told the U.N. Security Council.
“They examined personal belongings, including mobile devices, and gathered personal identity data, pictures and fingerprints,” she added.
Brands Kehris also said the U.N. human rights office has documented cases where Ukrainian civilians perceived as having ties with their country’s armed forces or state institutions, or having pro-Ukrainian or anti-Russian views, were arbitrarily detained, tortured or disappeared. Some were transferred to penal colonies, she said.
Ukraine and several Western states have also raised concerns about children being forcibly transferred to either Russia or territory it occupies.
“We are concerned that the Russian authorities have adopted a simplified procedure to grant Russian citizenship to children without parental care, and that these children would be eligible for adoption by Russian families,” the U.N. assistant secretary-general said.
Ukraine’s envoy said Russia has forcibly taken nearly 2.5 million Ukrainians, including thousands of children, to Russia from the southern and eastern parts of Ukraine.
“Our people are being transferred to isolated and depressed regions of Siberia and the Far East,” Deputy Ambassador Khrystyna Hayovyshyn told council members. “The scale of this crime is outrageous.”
She said only about 16,000 deported citizens have returned to Ukraine. Most lack the money, transportation and travel documents to get home.
Russia’s envoy dismissed the accusations as part of a Ukrainian and Western disinformation campaign.
“They are living freely and voluntarily in Russia. Nobody is preventing them moving or preventing them leaving the country,” Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said. “Do you seriously think that such a large number of people could be forced to move and forced to keep silent?”
The United States and Albania requested Wednesday’s meeting. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield asked why Russia is carrying out these filtration activities.
“The reason is simple: to prepare for an attempted annexation,” the American envoy said. “The goal is to change sentiments by force. To provide a fraudulent veneer of legitimacy for the Russian occupation and eventual, purported annexation of even more Ukrainian territory.”
She said all persons subjected to Russian filtration need access to U.N. and humanitarian agencies so their well-being can be verified.