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Media Initiative for Human Rights creates a map of facilities where Russia keeps Ukrainian prisoners

13.04.2023, 18:15

The Media Initiative for Human Rights (MIHR) presented an interactive map of more than 100 facilities where Russia has kept or still keeps civilian hostages and prisoners of war. The presentation took place on April 12 in Kyiv, according to the organization's website.

The map was compiled after more than a year of documenting international crimes committed by the Russian Federation and contains systematized data on over 100 detention facilities: in Russia, Belarus, and the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. The data for the map were collected by interviewing witnesses: the civilians who were held hostage and soldiers who had come back from captivity.

The most common crimes committed by the Russian army in Ukraine include unjustified detentions and taking civilians hostage. The civilians are kept in a centralized network of facilities, often in the same places as prisoners of war. The Russian military is terrorizing people: kidnapping, torturing, killing men, women, and children. The first enforced disappearances of civilians recorded by the MIHR after the start of the current phase of the war happened in February 2022.

As of early April 2023, the MIHR has identified 948 civilian hostages who are being kept in the Russian Federation and the occupied territories. But, the organization notes, the actual number may be five to seven times larger, since Russia does not share information about detained civilians. Russia is constantly moving these people as well, which greatly complicates the search.

As MIHR coordinator Tetyana Katrychenko explains, such actions are a war crime on the part of Russia, as the international law prohibits arbitrarily detaining, taking hostage, or transfering civilians during an armed conflict. According to Katrychenko, international organizations, primarily the International Committee of the Red Cross, could help search for civilian hostages on Russia's territory.

"The greatest attention is focused on the International Committee of the Red Cross, this organization is mandated to monitor the places where military POWs are being detained. They should have been keeping track of all detainees since the start of the conflict. The conflict in Ukraine is special in the sense that both civilians and military personnel are being taken prisoner. The ICRC's mandate extends to military personnel, but since the Russian Federation also regards civilians as combatants, there is room for maneuver to involve the ICRC to work with civilians as well," said Tetyana Katrychenko.

According to her, the Russians are trying to conceal their crimes, therefore it is necessary to identify the places where people are being kept promptly and document each such case. According to Katrychenko, this will contribute to the return of the hostages to their homeland.

"When Ukraine's victory comes, we very much doubt that the Russian Federation will let all the hostages go at once. And this will be a problem that will have to be solved. In order to understand whom Ukraine should be trying to return, there should be very clear, verified lists of people detained by Russia, and the places of detention should also be traced. Very painstaking research should be done in order to demand the return of these people later," said the MIHR coordinator.

You can learn more about the map of detention facilities in the MIHR's analytical report.

As reported by IMI, UNIAN journalist Dmytro Khyliuk and human rights advocate, military serviceman Maksym Butkevych are being held captive by the Russians.

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