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ISW: Zaporizhia Oblast occupation governor admits to deportations and executions

Thursday, 22 February 2024, 05:30
ISW: Zaporizhia Oblast occupation governor admits to deportations and executions
Photo: open sources

Yevhen Balytskyi, the Russian-appointed sham "head" of occupied part of Zaporizhzhia Oblast, has openly admitted that the Russian authorities are forcibly deporting Ukrainian citizens who oppose Russia's invasion of Ukraine or "insult" Russia. He also hinted that Russian occupying forces execute Ukrainian citizens without any trial or investigation.

Source: the Institute for the Study of War (ISW)

Details: In an interview published on 20 February, Balytskyi stated that the Russian occupation authorities "expelled a large number of families...who did not support the ‘special military operation’" [as the war against Ukraine is called in Russia – ed.] or who "insulted" Russia, including the Russian flag, anthem, or [President Vladimir Putin]."


Balytskyi justified these actions, which constitute war crimes, by claiming that the forced deportation of Ukrainian families was for their own good. He argued that the occupation authorities would have to "deal" with them in an even "harsher" way in the future, or they would be killed by other pro-Russian citizens. 

He stated that the occupation authorities "gave [the deported families] the opportunity to leave," but some people were forcibly deported, after "being given a water bottle" at the border.

Balytskyi also claimed that the occupation authorities were forced to make some "extremely harsh decisions that [he] will not be talking about" – possibly alluding to Russian occupation forces carrying out extrajudicial executions of Ukrainian citizens. 

The Institute for the Study of War has repeatedly reported that Russia forcibly deports Ukrainian citizens, including children, and continues to believe that Russia is attempting to destroy Ukrainian language, culture, history, ethnic identity, and identity, including through actions that violate the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Balytskyi's statements about the deportation of Ukrainian citizens critical of Russian occupation indicate that Russian deportation campaigns partly aim to russify the population of occupied Ukraine through force and fear. 

Balytskyi's willingness to openly discuss and even defend the illegal actions of the Russian occupation authorities against Ukrainian citizens in a widely publicised interview highlights the extent to which the Russian government supports and encourages such policies.

To quote the ISW’s Key Takeaways on 21 February:

  • Prominent independent Russian military blogger Andrei Morozov reportedly committed suicide on 21 February after refusing the Russian military command’s orders to delete his reports about high Russian casualty rates around Avdiivka.
  • A Ukrainian official denied a recent New York Times (NYT) report that Russian forces may have captured "hundreds" of Ukrainian soldiers during Ukraine’s withdrawal from Avdiivka, Donetsk Oblast.
  • Russian Chief of the General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov claimed that Russian forces seized Avdiivka within a "fairly short time."
  • A Ukrainian HIMARS strike against an undefended Russian training ground near occupied Volnovakha, Donetsk Oblast likely inflicted significant casualties, triggering a point of neuralgia for the Russian ultranationalist military blogger community.
  • Zaporizhia Oblast occupation governor Yevhen Balytskyi openly admitted that Russian authorities are forcibly deporting Ukrainian citizens who oppose Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or "insult" Russia and possibly alluded to Russian occupation forces’ summarily executing Ukrainian citizens.
  • Iranian sources told Reuters on 21 February that Iran provided hundreds of short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) to Russia in early January.
  • Russian authorities detained a dual US-Russian citizen in Yekaterinburg on suspicion of raising money for the Ukrainian war effort.
  • Russian forces made confirmed advances near Avdiivka, Donetsk City, Robotyne, and Krynky.
  • Belarusian and Kazakh companies are reportedly helping Russia circumvent international sanctions intended to deprive the Russian defence industrial base (DIB) of Western components and machines.
  • Russian occupation administrations continue to foster patronage networks with Russian federal subjects.

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