Statement by H.E. Mr. Ferit Hoxha, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of ALBANIA to the UN Security Council Maintenance of Peace and Security of Ukraine “Filtration Camps in Russia”

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New York, 7 September 2022

Je remercie la sous-secrétaire générale, DiCarlio, Mme Kehris et Mme Drik pour leurs informations perspicaces et utiles, mais aussi troublantes.

Mr. President,

One could think there is hardly any meaningful aspect of the Russian war of choice in Ukraine that we have not discussed in the Council in the course of these long six months.

Today’s topic is in fact one.

Since the beginning of the aggression, strong concerns have been raised, including here by some of us, and for good reason, on the alleged deportations, interrogations and detentions of Ukrainian civilians by Russian and Russian affiliated forces, a policy and actions that run against the International Humanitarian Law.

These concerns are no longer allegations; they are facts, confirmed, carefully and painstakingly, by international institutions, independent agencies, human rights groups and professional news media, based on accurate information, by interviews with deported and interrogated persons, as well as additional and concordant resources including, such intelligence reports, verified social media postings and satellite images.

Everything is concordant and the conclusion is beyond doubt and staggering: Russia is conducting a demographic makeup, in other terms, a social engineering in Ukraine.

Mr. President,

Despite calls and requests, no independent bodies have been allowed to inspect those filtration camps, an archipelago of unlawfulness, a dehumanizing process, black holes of human rights abuses, where Ukrainians face torture and loyalty tests.

Those who have passed through the camps have reported humiliation, verbal abuse and physical torture which range from strip searches, electric shocks and staged mock executions. Ms. Drik provided spine-chilling details.

According to a Human Right Watch report published recently, Russian and Russian affiliated officials have forcibly transferred Ukrainian civilians in areas of Ukraine occupied by Russia or to the Russian Federation, including in areas very far away. Mme Kheris just confirmed forced transfers of adults and children.

During the so-called “filtration process”, biometric data have been collected, including fingerprints, facial images and personal belongings. They have been interrogated for their relations to military armed forces and their political views as well. Any sign that links anyone to the Ukraine government is an indictment with dire consequences.

The report notes that individuals who failed the filtration process, were detained, and for some of them the fate is unknown. There are serious grounds for concern that their lives are at risk, if they are still alive.

Further, in July, an expert mission of OSCE Moscow mechanism, established to investigate alleged violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law committed by Russian forces in Ukraine since 24 February 2022, has identified the establishment and use of so-called filtration centers.

Based on the analysis of the satellite images, the Humanitarian Research Lab of the Yale University has identified 21 sites in the Donetsk oblast alone associated with filtration operations.

These are not mere check points; they are makeshift prisons, another face of the Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine.

Mr. President,

Anyone who has studied a bit of history would not fail to notice that filtration camps are rooted in Soviet and Russian history, from World War II to the Chechen wars of the 1990s.

World known Russian investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya gathered testimony from thousands of Chechen civilians detained in similar centers, revealing brutal interrogation methods, torture and human rights violations.

Despite decades apart, the policy and its aims remain the same: identify civilians who they believe can assimilate into Russian culture and Russian rule, and punish or remove those who won’t.

It is black and white: if you pay allegiance to the occupier, you are free; if not, you are detained and may disappear. This is what is happening to countless Ukrainian civilians.

Credible estimates point to some 1.5 million people processed through these filtration camps.

OSCE puts that figure up to 1,700,000 Ukrainians as of June. And it has not stopped since.

But the main question concerns for those who remain unaccounted for.

Mr. President,

In this bleak picture, the situation of children gleams as a terrifying dark spot.

Human rights advocates believe Russians have separated Ukrainian children from their parents at the filtration camps and placed Ukrainian orphans with Russian families. When they do not kill children, and this has happened to hundreds of them so far, they will simply uproot and deport them to Russia.

Imagine for a second the indescribable distress of Tatiana Tolstokorova, who recognized Nastya, her missing 3-year-old granddaughter, in a video posted on July 14 on Vkontakte, being welcomed by adoptive adults in Russia. This seems to have become the nightmare for tens of thousands of Ukrainian mothers.

Reportedly, Russian adults in Russia who take Ukrainian orphans will receive a stipend more than four times the minimum wage

Mr. President,

The International law is clear: the forcible transfer of civilians is prohibited under international humanitarian law, laws of war, and can be prosecuted as a war crime and a crime against humanity, including the fourth Geneva Convention.

The Russian Federation is a State party to all these instruments, and it violates them, just like it does with everything else, at will.

We call on international organizations, independent agencies, and encourage Ukrainian authorities, to collect all the documentation available, that may be used in the accountability process. The violation of the international law will not remain unpunished and crimes committed in Ukraine will hunt those responsible until their last days.

Mr. President,

There is a lot that has come into the open about these unlawful policies of Russia in Ukraine.

But what we know may only be the tip of the iceberg. There is certainly significantly much more we don’t know and this is the bigger story and the bigger worry.

This is why, if Russia has nothing to hide, as they claim, it should enable immediate and unrestricted access to the UN bodies, the OHCHR in the first place, but also to international humanitarian actors into so-called filtration centers and to forced deportation relocation areas in Russia, where the Ukrainian civilians are being filtered, interrogated, humiliated, denied their rights and unlawfully detained.

Will Russia do that?

Thank you!

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