The human rights situation, already catastrophic, worsened further due to the war. Apart from ubiquitous war crimes, the biggest issue was probably the treatment of civilians in the newly occupied territories. Ukrainian rights groups and officials accused Moscow of abductions and mass deportations to Russia.
The OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said in two reports released in 2022 that Russia was violating multiple provisions of Humanitarian Law and Human Rights in Ukraine.
In February 2023, the UN refugee agency UNHCR accused Russia of violating “fundamental principles of child protection” in wartime by giving Ukrainian children from occupied areas Russian passports and putting them up for adoption. The UNHCR said that it could not provide numbers, but the US group Conflict Observatory said in a report published in the same month that Moscow had systematically relocated at least 6,000 children to Russia. Ukrainian officials have put that number much higher, saying that at least 13,000 children had been brought to Russia. Human rights experts have called Russia’s treatment of Ukrainian children a war crime, while others, like historian Timothy Snyder have called for classifying it as genocide.
The exact number of Ukrainians that entered Russia since 24 February 2022 is not clear. The government in Moscow spoke of 5 million refugees in December, while the UNHCR only gives the number of 2.8 million border crossings. (These figures also include cases from outside Donbas).
Forced mobilization meant that large parts of the male population were being press ganged into the local armed formations regardless of their will or citizenship. While there was little documentation, rights activists said that recruiters in the “People’s Republics” have also enlisted Ukrainian passport holders on the basis that they were born on “DNR” territory. This practice is widely seen as a war crime, because it forces inhabitants of an occupied territory to betray their allegiance to their state of origin. Ukrainian human rights activists also said that the “DNR” and “LNR” were recruiting 16- and 17-year old minors.
The practice of arbitrary extra-legal detentions also continued. At least four local staff members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Donetsk and Luhansk were abducted and accused of espionage for Ukraine after the OSCE’s Monitoring Mission was evacuated following the invasion. By September, three of them were still being held—and the two in Luhansk had been sentenced to 13 years in prison (Newsletter 106).
Der gesamte Jahresbericht, der am 17.03.2023 erschienen ist, ist frei zugänglich unter https://civicmonitoring.org/war-and-annexation-the-peoples-republics-of-eastern-ukraine-in-2022/.