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'Moscow planning sham vote in occupied areas'

US diplomat accuses Russia of detaining, torturing Ukrainian officials, journalists

We’re seeing credible reporting that forces are rounding up local civilian populations in occupied areas, detaining them and then brutally interrogating them, says US ambassador to Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
US President Joe Biden
US President Joe Biden
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Juian E Barnes   |   Published 29.04.22, 01:02 PM

A senior U.S. diplomat accused Russia of engaging in systematic campaigns to topple local governments in occupied Ukraine and to detain and torture local officials, journalists and activists in so-called filtration camps, where some of them have reportedly disappeared.

The diplomat, Michael R. Carpenter, the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said Thursday that the United States has information that Russia is dissolving local, democratically elected governments and has forced large numbers of civilians in occupied areas into camps for questioning.


“We’re seeing credible reporting that Russia’s forces are rounding up the local civilian populations in these areas, detaining them in these camps, and then brutally interrogating them for any supposed links to the Ukrainian government or to independent media,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter said that people suspected of having connections to the government or to media were then being transferred to Russia or to Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine, “where many are reportedly disappeared or murdered.” Religious leaders and activists were also being detained. He did not elaborate on the sources of the U.S. government’s information.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has said that allegations that Ukrainians are being sent to camps are lies.

Ukrainian officials have been making similar allegations in recent days. Carpenter, a longtime former aide to President Joe Biden, formally presented the U.S. findings to the OSCE on Thursday before briefing journalists in a news conference.

Backing up allegations made by the Ukrainian government, Carpenter said Russia was preparing to hold sham votes in Kherson and other parts of Ukraine that its forces occupy, in order to set up separatist enclaves.

“The international community must make clear that any such referendum will never be recognized as legitimate, just as the Ukrainian people have already made clear that they will never support this Russian invasion,” he said. “So no one should be fooled by these theatrics.”

Before the invasion, Russia planned to try to topple the central government. But the defeat of the Russian military in the battle for the capital, Kyiv, derailed those plans, Carpenter said. The efforts to push out local leaders, he said, are now focused on areas that the Russian military has occupied, including Kherson.

“It’s patently a fantasy that anyone in Kherson would possibly vote in favor of Russian occupation. Just the opposite,” Carpenter said. “But nevertheless, this is something from Russia’s playbook that we’ve seen in the past and that we believe they would like to orchestrate yet again.”

The New York Times News Service

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