U.S. claims Russia has list of Ukrainians ‘to be killed or sent to camps’
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the nation in a recorded message on Feb. 20. [Salwan Georges/The Washington Post]
The United States has informed the United Nations it has credible information showing that Moscow is compiling lists of Ukrainians “to be killed or sent to camps following a military occupation,” according to a letter to the U.N. human rights chief obtained by The Washington Post on Sunday night.
The letter alleges that Moscow’s post-invasion planning would involve torture, forced disappearances and “widespread human suffering.” It does not describe the nature of the intelligence that undergirds its assessment.
The new warning comes after the Biden administration, amid weeks of speculation about President Vladimir Putin’s intentions in Ukraine, said late last week that the Russian leader had decided to launch an invasion.
Speaking to journalists on a daily call Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied the letter’s claims. “Do you realize that this is an absolute canard, a lie? It is absolute fiction. There is no such list. It’s a fake,” Peskov said.
The letter, written by Bathsheba Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva, said, “I would like to bring to your attention disturbing information recently obtained by the United States that indicates that human rights violations and abuses in the aftermath of a further invasion are being planned.”
“These acts, which in past Russian operations have included targeted killings, kidnappings/forced disappearances, unjust detentions, and the use of torture, would likely target those who oppose Russian actions,” said the letter addressed to Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights.
Crocker says the Russian military’s targets would include Russian and Belarusian dissidents in exile in Ukraine, journalists and anti-corruption activists, and “vulnerable populations such as religious and ethnic minorities and LGBTQI+ persons.”
“Specifically, we have credible information that indicates Russian forces are creating lists of identified Ukrainians to be killed or sent to camps following a military occupation,” the letter said, adding that the Biden administration also had information indicating Russian forces would likely use “lethal measures” to subdue peaceful protests or other “peaceful exercises of perceived resistance from civilian populations.”
The letter was transmitted Sunday night to the U.N. human rights office, OHCHR, in Switzerland.
The Kremlin has denied that it plans to invade Ukraine and has accused the United States and Western governments of disseminating misinformation to destabilize the region.
Russia has amassed about 150,000 troops near Ukraine’s border while demanding that the United States provide guarantees that Ukraine will never become a NATO member, a request Washington has refused.
The U.S. letter says it is addressing the U.N. human rights office because of its mandate and reporting presence in Ukraine.
On Friday, Foreign Policy reported about U.S. intelligence that Russia had plans for a post-invasion arrest and assassination campaign, citing unnamed U.S. officials.
In 2014, the United Nations established a human rights monitoring mission for Ukraine, with a special focus on the disputed areas of the country’s east. The mission has offices in the capital Kyiv, Luhansk, Donetsk, Kharkiv and other cities.
In a report covering August through October 2021, the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights cited increased civilian deaths and forced conscription, along with tighter restrictions of freedom of movement by authorities in Luhansk.
U.N. monitors also reported complaints of torture and arbitrary detention in separatist-controlled areas, along with a lack of access to detention sites for independent monitors.
The governments of both Russia and Ukraine have come under criticism for the treatment of LGBTQ individuals in their respective countries.
While LGBTQ advocates have credited Ukraine’s progress in improving the status of LGBTQ individuals in recent years, they say it has more work to do.
The letter says the U.N. human rights office has a global “leadership role” when it comes to monitoring abuses.
“We share this information with you in support of OHCHR’s important mission,” the letter says.
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