Russia engaged in depopulation campaign in Ukraine through forced resettlement programs, says ISW

17 November 2022, 12:35 PM
Russian occupation policies in Ukraine, including the abduction of children, may constitute genocide under international law. (Photo:REUTERS/Alexey Pavlishak)

Russian occupation policies in Ukraine, including the abduction of children, may constitute genocide under international law. (Photo:REUTERS/Alexey Pavlishak)

Russian occupation policies in Ukraine, including the abduction and forced resettlement of children, may constitute genocide under international law, the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of the War (ISW) reported on Nov. 16.

These policies, masked as vacation and rehabilitation schemes, likely form the backbone of a massive Russian depopulation campaign, the ISW added, noting that Russian public figures and puppet officials are flagrantly touting the forced resettlement of Ukrainian children into Russian families.

They point out that prominent Russian military bloggers began circulating a multi-part documentary series on Nov. 9 featuring several Ukrainian children from Donbas forcibly abducted and resettled into Russian families. The documentary series claims that Russian officials have evacuated over 150,000 children from Donbas in 2022 alone. It is unclear exactly how Russian sources are calculating this figure, as Ukrainian officials previously estimated this number to be 6,000 to 8,000.

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Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov additionally stated he is working with Russian Federation Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova to bring “difficult teenagers” from various Russian regions and occupied Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts to Chechnya to engage in “preventative work” and “military-patriotic education.” Kadyrov’s regime is known for heinous human-rights violations, including the torture, dismemberment, and murder of political opponents and LGBT individuals. Lvova-Belova has continually advocated for the abduction and resettlement of Ukrainian children and herself stole a child from Mariupol.

Meanwhile, as noted by the ISW, the Russian information space largely followed the official Kremlin framing of a recent rogue missile strike on Polish territory as a Western provocation.

The ISW also reported that Russian oligarch and Wagner mercenary company owner Yevgeny Prigozhin is continuing to establish himself as a central figure in the pro-war ultranationalist community, likely in pursuit of ambitious political goals.

Russian opposition media outlet Meduza reported on Nov. 16 that two sources close to the Kremlin stated that Prigozhin is thinking about creating a “conservative movement” that may become a political party. Meduza’s sources reported that Prigozhin has established an information campaign of constant anti-elite rhetoric modeled after jailed opposition figure Alexei Navalny’s social media campaign against Russian corruption, but to a very different effect.

Meduza’s sources reported that Prigozhin intends to simultaneously use the anti-elite social media campaign to cast himself as a populist figure while currying favor with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin by intimidating elites that may be viewed as insufficiently loyal to Putin.

The ISW has previously reported that Prigozhin is attempting to cast himself as a politician or that he intends to create a political party or movement. Prigozhin will likely continue efforts to establish parallel military structures and form an anti-elite campaign to cement himself as the central figure of an ultranationalist pro-war political movement in Russia, reads the report.

Other ISW key takeaways over the past day:

  • Ukrainian forces continued counter-offensive operations in the directions of Svatove and Kreminna;

  • Russian forces continued ground attacks near Bakhmut and Avdiyivka, and in western Donetsk Oblast;

  • Ukrainian forces continued targeting Russian forces and logistics nodes in southern Ukraine;

  • multiple reports indicate that the morale and psychological state of Russian forces in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts are exceedingly low;

  • Russian officials continued their efforts to replace proxy officials in occupied territories with Russian officials, forcibly relocate residents, and integrate occupied areas with Russia.

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