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Rapidly approaching deadline: Bringing back Ukrainians deported to Russia

Onysiia Syniuk
Journal27 June 2024
This article was published by Security and Human Rights Monitor


The Russian Federation has committed numerous grave violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law since it launched its full-scale aggression against Ukraine on 24 February 2022. The forcible transfers and deportations of Ukrainians – the focus of this article – however already began a few days earlier, on 18 February 2022, with the announcement of evacuations in the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, occupied before 2022.

Since then, the process of forcible transfers/deportations gained momentum, and was enforced in all the territories occupied by Russia after 24 February 2022. Despite Russia referring to the displacements as evacuations, examining the grounds invoked for these evacuations and the way the process was and is carried out, arguably shows that the displacements fail to comply with the rules on evacuation under international humanitarian law and in fact amounts to forcible transfers and deportations.

This article seeks to provide a comprehensive analysis of the process of forcible transfers and deportations of Ukrainians, conducted by Russia, including the timeline, geography and the policy designed to enable the process. The categories of people forcibly transferred and deported, as well as the violations they experienced prior, during and following the displacement are highlighted in order to determine the specific needs of the different groups involved in the process, including in relation to their potential future repatriation. Examining the decisions issued by Russian and occupation authorities, as well as the details of the process of forcible transfers and deportations in the different regions of Ukraine occupied by Russia, will help determine a pattern and planned nature of the act. Analysing the consequences of the displacement for the people deported highlights the urgency of setting up a mechanism of their return. The article concludes that the crime of forcible transfer and deportation is an ongoing one, and while the documentation efforts have been successful, issues arise with accountability and restitution. The entire international community should be mobilised to condemn and pressure Russia into stopping these unlawful practices and ensure the return of deported Ukrainians.

DOI: 10.58866/GRQR8928


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