Reports of Russian Federation Forces Putting Ukrainian Civilians in ‘Filtration’ Camps Must Be Investigated, Senior Officials Tell Security Council
Disturbing reports of Ukrainian civilians subjected to forced displacement, deportation and “filtration” camps must be independently investigated, senior United Nations officials told the Security Council today, as speakers stressed that international humanitarian law — guaranteeing protection for such individuals — still holds in times of war.
Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, told the Council that “the war in Ukraine continues to rage”, with a total of 13,917 verified civilian casualties and large-scale displacement. Over 6.9 million people have been internally displaced and over 7 million refugees have been recorded across Europe. While these numbers “cannot convey the full scale of the tragedy”, she stressed that — in the face of the international community’s incapacity to stop this senseless war — “we must continue to record its horrific consequences as faithfully and accurately as possible”.
Emphasizing that persistent allegations of forced displacement, deportation and so-called “filtration camps” run by the Russian Federation and affiliated local forces are “extremely disturbing”, she called for such reports to be investigated with the cooperation of competent authorities. Further, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine must have unimpeded access to all individuals detained in relation to the ongoing war. Urging peace in Ukraine, she added that “all wars are tragic, but none more than wars of choice”.
Ilze Brands Kehris, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights and Head of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in New York, reported that OHCHR has verified that Russian armed forces and affiliated armed groups are subjecting civilians to so-called “filtration” — a system of security checks and personal data collection. During this process, persons are undergoing body searches — sometimes involving forced nudity — along with detailed interrogations about personal background, family ties, political views and allegiances; women and girls are at risk of sexual abuse.
In addition, OHCHR has further documented that men and women perceived as having ties to Ukrainian armed forces or State institutions — or as having pro-Ukrainian or anti-Russian views — were being subjected to arbitrary detention, torture, ill-treatment and forced disappearance, she said. She urged the Russian Federation to grant unimpeded, confidential access to OHCHR and other independent monitors to all places of detention under its control, as well as unhindered, timely humanitarian access to persons from conflict-affected areas.
Oleksandra Drik, Coordinator for International Cooperation at the Center for Civil Liberties, then recounted the stories of several individuals who have passed through the “filtration” process, where they were interrogated, beaten, tortured and psychologically pressured. These are not just rare cases, she stressed. The Russian Federation has established a zone of complete lawlessness in the occupied territory of Ukraine and, by holding a fake referendum in such territory and subsequently declaring its independence, the Russian Federation seeks to distance itself from the atrocities being committed there. She underscored that if the Russian Federation is not stopped, these atrocities will continue and it will invade whichever country it wants next.
In the ensuing debate, Council members expressed concern over the lack of negotiations to end the conflict and its ongoing effects on civilians. Many also called for United Nations and independent observers to have access to those held in filtration camps and detention centres, stressing that international law applies even in a state of war.
The representative of Albania said that today’s briefing shows that strong concerns over the past six months about the possible detention of Ukrainian civilians are no longer allegations. Rather, they are painstakingly verified facts. Noting that these filtration camps are rooted in Russian history, he stressed that if the Russian Federation has nothing to hide it should give United Nations bodies unrestricted access.
The United Kingdom’s representative also expressed concern over reports of the Russian Federation’s systematic detaining, processing and deporting Ukrainians, with “chilling echoes from European history”. Those forced deportations and displacement were being used to change the demographic makeup of parts of Ukraine. Stressing that the Russian Federation is not just trying to destroy Ukrainian democracy but also Ukrainian identity and culture, she said that “alleged de-Nazification is a cover for de-Ukrainianization”.
The representative of the Russian Federation pointed out that the term “filtration” does not have a clear definition in international humanitarian law. If speakers were identifying those Ukrainian citizens who wish to come to the Russian Federation, then this is a normal practice for any army, he reminded them. Further, the Russian Federation is the largest recipient of Ukrainian refugees, who are living freely and voluntarily in his country. Displaced persons go through registration when they arrive at the Russian border — just like in other countries that process Ukrainian refugees — he said, underscoring that this process was one of registration, not “filtration”.
Kenya’s representative, noting that the war in Ukraine has generated the fastest and largest mass displacement since the Second World War, called for an independent investigation into allegations that some forcibly displaced people are being subjected to filtration processes. Recalling the differential treatment Africans and people of African descent living in Ukraine received when they sought to escape the war as it began, he said that what transpired then still represents a call on all States to “uphold their duty to treat migrants, refugees and asylum seekers with the dignity they deserve”.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates, also focusing on the rights of the displaced, pointed out that, like all wars, this one disproportionately affects women and children. “If ever there were a clear-cut illustration of the need for a gender-responsive humanitarian approach, this is it,” she stressed. Noting that, as with all wars, the human cost only worsens, she underscored that what is needed now are ideas and the political will to make them a reality.
Speaking after Council members, the representative of Ukraine said that the Russian Federation has continued the forcible deportation of Ukrainian citizens to isolated and depressed regions. Most of those transferred to the Russian Federation have no travel documents, literally trapping those wishing to return home. Noting that children are returning to school in most countries, she said that the Russian Federation has regularly targeted educational facilities — damaging 2,177 and destroying 284 — while also continuing its “Russification” of education in the territories it has occupied since February. Further, children from occupied territories are being transferred to the Russian Federation for illegal adoption. She called for all Ukrainian children to be returned to their parents or legal guardians. “Until this happens, this crime needs the most powerful response by the international community,” she added.
Also speaking were representatives of the United States, China, India, Brazil, Ghana, Norway, Mexico, Ireland, Gabon, France, Italy, Poland, Slovakia and Latvia (also for Estonia and Lithuania).
The meeting began at 3:09 p.m. and ended at 5:44 p.m.
ROSEMARY DICARLO, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, briefed the Security Council that “as we are painfully aware, the war in Ukraine continues to rage”, with a total of 13,917 verified civilian casualties. “The actual numbers are likely significantly higher,” she said, also noting that the war continues to drive large-scale displacement, with over 6.9 million people internally displaced and over 7 million refugees recorded across Europe. Ukrainian women — half of the refugee population — continue to face significantly increased security risks, including sexual and gender-based violence, trafficking, exploitation and abuse. Further, thousands of people in the conflict-affected areas of the Donetsk region lack access to reliable running water, which increases the risk of communicable disease. While these numbers “cannot convey the full scale of the tragedy”, she stressed that — in the face of the international community’s incapacity to stop this senseless war — “we must continue to record its horrific consequences as faithfully and accurately as possible”.
Against that backdrop, she said that the United Nations continues to mobilize to address the massive impact of the war on civilians and, as humanitarian needs rapidly rise, the Organization’s response has scaled up, now reaching 12.7 million people with various forms of assistance. While the United Nations is actively seeking to ensure that protection and assistance are available in all areas of Ukraine, she expressed concern over the lack of access to Ukrainians living in areas outside of the Ukrainian Government’s control. Turning to the war’s impact around the world, she pointed out that its effects on countries already severely hit by climate change, drought or instability “have been extremely worrying” and spotlighted the situation in Somalia, which is “on the brink of famine”. She welcomed, however, the Black Sea Grain Initiative’s enabling of food exports from Ukraine, which has contributed to a decrease in global food prices. To ensure that food reaches all in need, Russian fertilizers and food products must reach foreign markets.
She also expressed concern over the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, recalling the Council’s meeting on 6 September on this issue. Additionally, noting that the fact-finding mission to Olenivka is set to deploy in the coming days to investigate the 29 July incident that led to the death of 53 Ukrainian prisoners of war, she stressed that the mission must be able to conduct its work without interference, having safe, secure and unfettered access to people, places and evidence. Further, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine must have unimpeded access to all individuals detained in relation to the ongoing war, including access to places of internment of Ukrainian prisoners of war and civilian detainees in the Russian Federation. Emphasizing that persistent allegations of forced displacement, deportation and so-called “filtration camps” run by the Russian Federation and affiliated local forces are “extremely disturbing”, she called for such reports to be investigated with the cooperation of competent authorities.
Recalling previous Council discussions on how the war in Ukraine is not only devastating that country but also endangering regional and global stability, she pointed out that the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons could not produce a substantive outcome after consensus was blocked because of issues related to the war. This failure is the latest example of how the conflict has affected international relations and cooperation. Urging peace in Ukraine, she added that “all wars are tragic, but none more than wars of choice”.
ILZE BRANDS KEHRIS, Assistant Secretary-General Head and of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said the armed attack by the Russian Federation against Ukraine has resulted in the mass forced displacement of civilians in Ukraine, with some 7 million people internally displaced and millions more having sought refuge outside of the country. Intense hostilities, including large-scale destruction of critical civilian infrastructure and housing, has forced many people to flee their homes. OHCHR has documented a significant number of cases of civilians who were displaced to the Russian Federation, including a dozen cases where members of the Russian armed forces ordered civilians in Mariupol to leave their homes or shelters and brought them to territory in Ukraine under their control, or to the Russian Federation. She noted there have been credible allegations of forced transfers of unaccompanied children to Russian occupied territory, or to the Russian Federation itself.
She voiced concern that 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 — stressing that under Article 50 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Moscow is prohibited from changing the children’s personal status, including nationality. OHCHR has verified that Russian armed forces and affiliated armed groups subject civilians to so-called “filtration” — a system of security checks and personal data collection. In cases that her 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 personal background, family ties, political views and allegiances, with women and girls at risk of sexual abuse.
OHCHR has further documented that men and women perceived as having ties with Ukrainian armed forces or State institutions, or as having pro-Ukrainian or anti-Russian views, were subjected to arbitrary detention, torture, ill-treatment and enforced disappearance — transferred to penal colonies, including the now infamous penal colony near Olenivka, where they were interrogated and sometimes tortured to extract a so-called “confession” of their cooperation with the Government of Ukraine. Her Office has been seeking access to individuals detained after failing to pass “filtration”, and to those who reportedly passed “filtration” but were nevertheless detained and sent to a “centre for evacuees” in Bezimenne, in Donetsk region. She expressed concern that those people may be subjected to torture or ill treatment while being held incommunicado. Risks of trafficking can also arise when people have exhausted their savings or when States reduce the scope of their protection or social assistance, she stressed — calling on receiving States to establish systematic protection and security measures, such as gender-based violence risk mitigation. She urged the Russian Federation to grant unimpeded and confidential access to her Office and other independent international monitors to all places of detention under their control, as well as unhindered, timely and safe humanitarian access to persons from conflict-affected areas.
OLEKSANDRA DRIK, Coordinator for International Cooperation at the Center for Civil Liberties, next briefed the Council that her human-rights organization and its partners have documented over 17,000 potential crimes committed by the Russian army in Ukraine. Many of these occur during the so-called “filtration” process that the Russian Federation has been implementing in the occupied territories of Ukraine over the last eight years. She recounted the stories of several individuals who have passed through this filtration process, where they were interrogated, beaten, tortured with physical violence and electricity and psychologically pressured to renounce Ukrainian citizenship or provide information on their connections with the Ukrainian military. Those who have not passed through this process can be detained for months, she said, after which they are possibly sent to detention centres or prisons in occupied Ukraine or in the Russian Federation.
She also recounted the stories of several civilians taken hostage and tortured to admit their relationship with the Ukrainian military, as if the Russian Federation needed to prepare these hostages as an “exchange fund”. There are also reports that those who fail to pass filtration are killed, and satellite images reveal mass graves situated close to filtration camps. All the people going through filtration procedures are civilian hostages, humiliated and kept in inhumane conditions without access to proper food, water or sanitation. These are not just rare cases, she stressed, noting that her organization alone has received information regarding at least 600 of such cases, often from relatives. This is a systematic, planned and organized activity that did not start with the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022; rather, the Russian Federation has been utilizing this practice since its invasion of Crimea in 2014.
The Russian Federation has “established a zone of complete lawlessness” in the occupied territory of Ukraine, she went on to say. Further, by holding a fake referendum in such territory and subsequently declaring its independence, the Russian Federation seeks to distance itself from the atrocities being committed there. Ukraine is not the first country that the Russian Federation has invaded in the last 30 years, she stressed, but that country “has always gotten away with it”. If the Russian Federation is not stopped, these atrocities will continue and that country will invade whichever country it wants. Against that backdrop, she called on the Council to create an effective mechanism to monitor the Russian Federation’s compliance with the norms of international law and to promote the establishment of an accountability mechanism necessary to bring Russian war criminals to justice.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said today’s briefing shows that strong concerns over the past six months about alleged detentions of Ukrainian civilians are no longer allegations. These concerns are facts that have been confirmed and painstakingly verified by international human rights groups, media and others and such actions run against international law, he said, adding that the Russian Federation is conducting social engineering in Ukraine. No independent bodies have been allowed to visit the filtration camps. The reports note that people passing through the camps are abused, even physically tortured. In addition, there are forcible transfers of adults and children. Individuals have been detained and the fates of many people are unknown. Noting that these filtration camps are rooted in Russian Federation history, he said it is now estimated that 1.5 million people have passed through the camps as of June. This creates a bleak picture. Further, Russians have separated Ukrainian children from their families and have placed them with Russian families. International humanitarian law prohibits the forcible transfer of people, he pointed out, adding that the international crimes committed in Ukraine will not go unpunished. “This may only be the tip of iceberg,” he said. If the Russian Federation has nothing to hide, it should give United Nations bodies unrestricted access.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States), spotlighting the filtration camps and violence against Ukrainians parents and children, noted that even the TASS Russian News Agency has reported on many Ukrainians being relocated to Russian Federation. Quoting a man who said “we felt like hostages” under Russian detention, she reported that those with pro-Ukrainian leanings are disappeared or further detained. She also recalled the words of a woman who heard a soldier say he had shot 10 people who did not pass filtration. Between 900,000 and 1.6 million Ukrainians are reported to have been removed to the Russian Federation. Further, the United States has information that officials from the Russian Federation presidential Administration are overseeing the operation. The word “filtered” does not begin to capture the horror of what is occurring, she stressed, as in July alone, more than 1,800 children were forcibly transferred from the Russian Federation-occupied areas of Ukraine — a grave breach of the Geneva Convention that constitutes a war crime. Asking why the Russian Federation is systematically cataloguing Ukrainians moving through the system and forcing them to apply for Russian Federation passports, she stressed that it is, in fact, an effort to erase the living memory of Ukraine and prepare for an annexation. The United States will never recognize Russian Federation’s forcible alteration of Ukraine’s borders, she stated, calling on Moscow to allow access to the United Nations and independent observers, and for all persons subject to filtration to have access to humanitarian aid.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) expressed concern over reports that the Russian Federation is systematically detaining, processing and deporting Ukrainian men, women and children “with chilling echoes from European history”. She called on the Russian Federation to allow the United Nations and other relevant international organizations immediate, full and unhindered access to those held in filtration camps and detention centres. She also expressed concern that the Russian Federation is potentially using forced deportations and displacement to forcibly change the demographic makeup of parts of Ukraine. This tells the world several things about the Russian Federation’s war in Ukraine, including that it is not just an attempt to destroy Ukrainian democracy; rather, it also seeks to destroy Ukrainian identity and culture. “Alleged de-Nazification is a cover for de-Ukrainianization,” she said. Noting that the Russian army is not being welcomed as it enters Ukrainian territory, she underscored that this is a war of conquest, occupation and oppression, aimed at eliminating Ukraine. Against that backdrop, she called on the Russian Federation to fully observe its obligations under international law and end its illegal invasion of Ukraine.
GENG SHUANG (China), noting that winter was approaching, said it is worrying that the conflict shows no sign of ending. Ukraine and its neighbouring countries are facing issues of great concern. He encouraged the parties to make all efforts to avoid further deterioration of the situation. Stressing that the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure is very important, he emphasized that the protection of civilians should come first. In addition, the legitimate rights of displaced refugees and international agencies should be protected. The safety of the power plant affects many people, and he called on all parties to follow the seven pillars outlined by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Humanitarian issues in Ukraine have always been close to China’s heart, he noted, encouraging the Russian Federation and Ukraine to maintain communications with that focus. He also called for the return of Ukrainian food and fertilizer to the international market. History has proven that diplomatic efforts and negotiations are the only viable way to resolve the crisis. All parties should continue engagement and refrain from confrontation.
RUCHIRA KAMBOJ (India) said the report of the Secretary-General paints a distressing picture of civilian suffering: over 11,000 civilian casualties in various conflicts in 2021, with over 45 per cent of these being in Afghanistan alone; more than 140 million people reeling under conflict-induced hunger; and 84 million being forcibly displaced, with women and children forming the large majority of internally displaced persons. Vulnerable groups, including women, children, and minorities, as well as indispensable civilian infrastructure, hospitals and irreplaceable cultural heritage, have been among the several collateral casualties of attacks in recent armed conflicts. It is regrettable that the situation in Ukraine has not shown any significant improvement since the Council last discussed the conflict and its humanitarian consequences, with deeply disturbing reports of civilian killings in Bucha. Calling for guarantees of safe passage to deliver essential humanitarian and medical supplies, she reported that India has recently dispatched its twelfth consignment of humanitarian aid to Ukraine. She also pointed out that the conflict has been exacerbating concerns over food, fertilizer and fuel security, particularly in the developing countries. In that regard, in the last three months alone, India has exported more than 1.8 million tons of wheat to countries in need, including to Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sudan and Yemen.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) cited the bleak scenario of deaths, displaced persons and a deteriorating humanitarian situation, with conflict in winter threatening to worsen those conditions. Expressing concern over the safety of heavily populated areas and the security of Zaporizhzhia power plant, he stressed that it is even more disheartening to see no signs of peace negotiations, with both sides preparing for a long conflict — threatening both countries, their economies and the entire region. Citing previous comments by the United Arab Emirates representative, he emphasized that there is value in Council meetings on Ukraine when they are accompanied by action. Condemning the use of force to resolve any disputes between States, he also stressed that closing the door to dialogue or isolating any of the parties will not resolve the conflict. The arrival of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) personnel at Zaporizhzhia was evidence that respect for international law and the Charter of the United Nations are the best way forward. He urged the parties to refrain from escalating the conflict and cease hostilities, prioritizing the well-being of their populations.
KHALILAH HACKMAN (Ghana) said that since the war’s beginning in February this year, at least 14 million people are estimated to have been forcibly displaced from their normal places of abode. Nearly 6.9 million people have sought refuge in neighbouring countries while some 7 million more people have been internally displaced. While some Ukrainian nationals have crossed back into Ukrainian territory, the numbers pale in comparison to those compelled to leave their homes on a daily basis. Moreso, women and children account for the greatest portion of displaced persons. She commended the neighbouring countries that have received millions of Ukrainians and provided them with needed assistance. These countries must be granted additional support, where possible, to enhance their response capacity. She also condemned all acts of human rights abuses against civilians, including the reported cases of filtration processes and other acts, adding that such operations can be inhumane and constitute violations of international humanitarian law and human rights laws. She called for thorough, impartial and independent investigations of such reports and allegations of abuses to establish the facts and ensure accountability on the part of the perpetrators and justice for the victims.
MONA JUUL (Norway) said the number of civilian casualties amassed is alarming and unacceptable, with over 7 million fleeing and seeking protection in neighbouring and other countries, and roughly the same number internally displaced. The restoration of family links is of the utmost importance, and the international community must prevent and combat human trafficking and other abuses. As well, the international community must support Ukraine’s reconstruction efforts so that the millions of forcibly displaced persons one day can return to their homes. She voiced concern about reports of forcible transfers of civilians to the Russian Federation and of filtration facilities, with a growing body of independent information indicating serious human rights violations and abuses against civilian detainees and prisoners of war at these sites. She welcomed the update today on the fact-finding mission established by the Secretary-General pursuant to the incident of 29 July at the detention facility near the village of Olenivka. Recalling that all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition of an occupied territory are prohibited according to international humanitarian law, and may constitute war crimes, she stated that civilians forcibly transferred out of Ukraine who wish to return must be allowed to do so. “Russia chose to start this war, Russia can also choose to end it,” she stressed.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), noting that the “dirty methods of Western propogandists are familiar to us”, said that his country is now being blamed for “filtration” activities that it is allegedly carrying out against Ukrainian citizens. Recalling the statement by the representative of the United States, he noted that she recounted a story as if from a horror film and asked which film’s plot she was describing. “We’ve never seen that film,” he said, suggesting it was perhaps produced by Ukraine’s ministry of propaganda. Pointing out that the term “filtration” doesn’t have a clear definition in international humanitarian law, he said that, if those present are talking about identifying those Ukrainian citizens who wish to come to the Russian Federation, this is a normal practice for any army. He then asked if the United States allowed the United Nations to inspect prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, stressing that this discussion represents a cynical attempt to force an unsuspecting public to believe in the existence of “bizarre camps” in which Ukrainian citizens are being forced into the Russian Federation.
He went on to point out that the Russian Federation is the largest recipient of Ukrainian refugees, who are not being kept in prisons; rather, they are living freely and voluntarily in the Russian Federation. Naturally, displaced persons go through registration when they arrive at the Russian border – just like in other countries that process Ukrainian refugees, he said, stressing that this process was one of registration, not “filtration”. He also asked how videos can depict Ukrainian criminals calmly crossing the Russian border if a so-called “police State” has introduced a network of filtration camps for Ukrainian citizens, and how mass voluntary movements of Ukrainians comport with accusations of forced deportation. He added that it is regrettable that campaigns to besmirch the Russian Federation have now extended to human-rights defenders, questioning how the same can be impartial when they only work from one side of the conflict. Emphasizing that the Council wasted time today in discussing conjectures, he proposed a meeting on 8 September on the real threats to international peace and security caused by foreign States supplying Ukraine with military equipment.
MICHAEL KAPKIAI KIBOINO (Kenya) said the war in Ukraine has generated the fastest and largest mass displacement since the Second World War. Last month alone, more than 330,000 people, mostly from the east and south of the country, where violence has been raging, were displaced. The claim that some of the forcibly displaced are being subjected to filtration processes is serious and alarming, he said, calling for an independent investigation into those allegations to establish the facts upon which the Council can take appropriate action. In that regard, the relevant United Nations agencies should be granted access to those that have been forcibly displaced, particularly those in or that have been in the alleged filtration camps. Recalling the International Day for People of African Descent on 30 August, he drew attention to the differential treatment Africans and people of African descent living in Ukraine received, when they, like millions of others, were seeking to escape when the war against Ukraine broke out. “What transpired then still represents a call on all States to review their laws and practices, to address racial discrimination, and uphold their duty to treat migrants, refugees and asylum seekers with the dignity they deserve,” he said.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico) said the conflict has led to serious consequences and forced millions of people to leave their homes and reside in other countries. Millions of people have not been able to return to their place of origin. He appealed to all parties to respect international human rights and humanitarian law. Parties to an international armed conflict may not deport or move by force the civilian population of an occupied area. Violation of this law is a war crime. Ukraine is a constantly changing crisis. Many United Nations agencies have warned of the risks faced by women, children and the elderly and disabled people. Women, for example, face health risks and are victims of sexual violence and forced trafficking. The elderly and persons with disabilities face limited access to shelter and services to address urgent conditions. He called for all necessary measures to be taken so civilians have safe shelter, food and health care. Regarding the so-called filtration process, it is crucial for the United Nations to have access to the sites without restriction. The only way to resolve this deplorable situation is an immediate cessation of hostilities, he added.
FERGAL TOMAS MYTHEN (Ireland) called on the Russian Federation to comply with its international law obligations, stressing that there must be full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to civilians, including those who choose to remain in Ukraine or who are unable to leave. Those who seek to leave or those who are forced to leave must be allowed to do so safely and be allowed to leave for destinations of their own choosing. There is evidence of enforced deportations of Ukrainians and the worrying use of so-called “filtration centres” as part of this process. Those violations of international humanitarian and human rights law may constitute international crimes, including war crimes. Also recalling reports of sexual violence perpetrated by Russian soldiers against women, girls, men and boys, he stressed that there must be no impunity for such crimes. All prisoners of war must be treated humanely in all circumstances. Allegations or incidents of mistreatment must be properly investigated and perpetrators held accountable. Moreover, the International Committee of the Red Cross must be given access to all prisoners of war, he said.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates) noted that, while parents in New York and around the world prepare their children for the return to school, it is hard to imagine that in the context of the Ukraine conflict. While highlighting the resilience of Ukrainian children, she noted the war has destroyed almost 300 educational institutions. Further, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that over 2 million children have fled their country; like all wars, this one disproportionately affects women and children. “If ever there were a clear-cut illustration of the need for a gender-responsive humanitarian approach, this is it,” she stressed. Protection must be provided without prejudice or discrimination, and those fleeing must be allowed to retain their dignity and agency. All parties must abide by their responsibilities under international law, with routes to safety being secured and infrastructure and life-sustaining services protected. With every passing day, the need to find a way to stem the violence and suffering only deepens. Citing food insecurity, she underscored that grain must continue to reach those most in need, not just those able to pay, and the need to get Russian fertilizer out to global markets for next year’s harvest. As with all wars, the human cost only worsens; what is needed now are ideas and the political will to make them a reality. Cessation of hostilities is the right starting point.
EDWIGE KOUMBY MISSAMBO (Gabon) emphasized, once again, that “civilians are paying too high a price” for the war in Ukraine and that belligerent parties must abide by the international instruments that guarantee their protection. The existence of cases of filtration, profiling, mistreatment, forced labour and torture are serious allegations that, if proven, would be “inconceivable”, she stressed, adding that “the state of war is not a state of lawlessness”. Further, human suffering cannot be the subject of speculation, blackmail or bartering. Impartial inquiries must be conducted to establish the facts and those responsible. She also urged the parties to cooperate with the United Nations and its specialized agencies to ensure civilians are protected in Ukraine and beyond and called for humanitarian workers to have unhindered access to the areas and peoples in need of support. She also urged the belligerents to engage in good-faith negotiations to end the war and reach “peaceful coexistence”.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), Council President for September, speaking in his national capacity, said the war of aggression that the Russian Federation has been waging for nearly seven months, in violation of all the principles of international law and the Charter of the United Nations, has unbearable consequences for civilian populations. Expressing shock at reports of the forcible transfer of Ukrainian civilians to Russian-occupied areas or to the Russian Federation — including children — he further noted that they have been subjected to inhumane detention conditions and to “filtration” processes. Such actions may clearly constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity. The unbearable scenes and crimes committed in Ukraine are the subject of rigorous documentation, evidence collection and criminal law analysis, he said, adding that the perpetrators will have to be held accountable. The work of the International Criminal Court and the Independent International Commission of Inquiry created by the Human Rights Council is crucial to this effort to document, analyse and fight against impunity. He further expressed support for efforts by Ukrainian courts and the independent investigations they have opened.
KHRYSTYNA HAYOVYSHYN (Ukraine) said, after nearly 200 days since the Russian invasion, Ukraine remains confident about its victory, with Ukrainian forces liberating territories and settlements in Kherson, Kharkiv and Donetsk regions. However, as a part of its aggression, the Russian Federation has continued the forcible deportation of Ukrainian citizens to isolated and depressed regions, including Siberia and the Far East. According to available data, nearly 2.5 million Ukrainians, including about 38,000 children, have been transferred from southern and eastern regions of Ukraine. As part of the forced evacuation and deportation, the Russian Federation is detaining refugees in so-called “filtration camps”. According to Ukraine’s Prosecutor-General, these camps have been set up in the cities of Makiivka, Snizhne, Torez, Shakhtarsk, Khartsysk, Novoazovsk and Berdyansk, as well as the villages of Nikolske, Bezimenne, Yuryivka. The Ministry of Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine states that only about 16,000 deported citizens were able to return to Ukraine. According to their accounts, most of those transferred to the Russian Federation have no travel documents. This makes people wishing to return back home literally trapped in the Russian Federation.
Noting that it is back-to-school time in most countries, she reported the Russian Federation has regularly targeted education facilities, damaging 2,177 educational institutions and destroying 284. In addition, the Russian Federation is continuing its “Russification” of education to the territories it has occupied since February. The curriculum it imposes in those occupied territories does not provide for the studying of the Ukrainian language, literature and history. More so, children from the occupied territories are being transferred to the Russian Federation and illegally given up for adoption, a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. On August 23, the Krasnodar Department of Family and Childhood in the Russian Federation publicly reported that more than 1,000 Ukrainian children from Mariupol had been illegally transferred to outsiders in Tyumen, Irkutsk, Kemerovo and Altai regions and more than 300 children were currently being held in specialized institutions in Krasnodar region. “We reiterate that all Ukrainian children, who were illegally displaced to the territory of Russia must be returned to their parents or legal guardians,” she said. “Until this happens, this crime needs the most powerful response by the international community.”
MAURIZIO MASSARI (Italy) called on the Russian Federation to grant unfettered access for both United Nations bodies and international non-governmental organizations to freely and safely visit the temporary placement centres with direct and complete access to those civilians. He further called on the Russian Federation to ensure the immediate return of all forcibly transferred Ukrainian citizens, particularly women and children, to their territories of origin or their full freedom of movement towards third countries. The effective evacuation mechanism established in Mariupol, thanks to the coordination efforts of the United Nations and ICRC, is a clear example of how international humanitarian law cannot be left only to the voluntary compliance of armed and non-armed groups, he said, adding that it should be replicated to end the heinous filtration system. Accountability for the perpetrators of such severe breaches of international humanitarian law must be guaranteed, he said, reaffirming full support for the strengthening of the existing mechanisms of compliance, particularly the International Criminal Court.
KRZYSZTOF MARIA SZCZERSKI (Poland) called on the international community to protect Ukrainian children’s right to identity, including their nationality, without unlawful interference. The Russian Federation’s forced transfers are yet another element on its long list of serious violations of the laws of war that may amount to war crimes and potentially crimes against humanity. He said it is even more deplorable that the Russian Federation is presenting all Ukrainians entering its territory — voluntarily or not — as refugees or migrants, whereas they are in fact the victims of Moscow’s violations of international law. For those reasons, accountability for violations of international law, including human rights law, committed in Ukraine by the Russian Federation, should remain the priority of the international community. His country has consistently called for bringing perpetrators of atrocities to justice. It continuously supports the work of fact-finding, investigative and accountability mechanisms mandated to examine those violations, and has supported the establishment of the dedicated Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry.
RÓBERT CHATRNÚCH (Slovakia) voiced concern about the Russian Federation's intention to stage fraudulent referendums with the aim of illegally annexing the occupied territories of Ukraine. Those anticipated steps follow the same tactic the Russian Federation used in 2014 regarding Crimea, he pointed out, stressing that his country does not and will not recognize such an illegal annexation. He called for an immediate cessation of Russian military activities in Ukraine and unconditional withdrawal of all its troops from Ukraine. Also voicing concern about the reported forcible transfer of Ukrainian civilians to areas of occupied territories of Ukraine and to the Russian Federation, he said that action may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity. According to those reports, during the process of “filtration”, Ukrainian citizens are subject to compulsory security screening with collecting civilians’ biometric data, conducting body searches and questioning them about political views. There are serious grounds for concerns that these individuals are at particular risk of torture, he stressed, calling on the Russian Federation to seize that activity at once and allow all civilians forcibly transferred, who wish to return to Ukraine, to do so.
ANDREJS PILDEGOVIČS (Latvia), speaking also on behalf of Estonia and Lithuania, called on the Russian Federation to immediately stop violating international humanitarian law and Ukrainians’ human rights. He condemned the forced “passportization” and conscription to the Russian armed forces of Ukrainian citizens, who live in the temporarily occupied territories. He further condemned the deportation of Ukrainian civilians to the Russian Federation, the forcible transfer of children, illegal adoption of Ukrainian children, and the abduction of civilians, including mayors and other democratically elected representatives, journalists and activists. Vulnerable groups, such as women, children, orphans and the elderly have suffered the most, he underscored. He said that he looks forward to receiving an update from OHCHR, which is looking into allegations that children in orphanages had been taken to the Russian Federation. He called on international human rights organizations to continue documenting cases of forcible transfer of Ukrainian citizens and providing regular and public reports about their findings. He called on the United Nations to establish a fact-finding mission to document deportation of Ukrainian citizens, similar to the fact-finding mission regarding the massacre of Ukrainian soldiers in Olenivka.