In two months since the war was declared, Russia has forcibly relocated about 600,000 Ukrainians from the occupied territories, 117,000 of them were children. We are talking mainly about the eastern regions of Ukraine, in particular, Mariupol. Mass deportation and resettlement of Ukrainians on the territory of Russia are the possible indicators of the genocide. Several criminal proceedings regarding such the actions of the occupiers have already been initiated in Ukraine.
Before crossing the Russian border, the Ukrainians are conducted the so-called «filtration» conversations, that is, interrogations. Then the Russians take their documents and phones away. The fate of the deportees remains unknown.
«Slidstvo.Info» found out that one of the key roles in the deportation and resettlement of Ukrainians belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church. The Ministry of Emergency Situations of Russia transmits information about the deportees to churchmen, and then they house them to some churches and monasteries. The journalists have identified the location of some church institutions where the Ukrainians may be forcibly relocated to.
The Correspondence of Churchmen
From the very beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, from February 24, the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Russia sends reports on the occupied territories and deported Ukrainians to the email of the Synodal Department for Church Charity of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). The Ministry of Emergency Situations daily informs churchmen about changes in the occupied territories and about the number of forcibly exported Ukrainians — routes and time of their delivery from Ukraine to Russia.
«Slidstvo.Info» has found this out by reading the emails of the charitable wing of the ROC, which the hackers from Anonymus and the DDoSecrets project shared with us.
The email used for correspondence is firstname.lastname@example.org. It seems that it was created specifically for the contacts between Russian churchmen and security forces in matters of the war in Ukraine. The first test letter to this email was received on February 21, 2022, just before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The author of the test letter is Polina Yufereva from the Russian Orthodox Church. She is the coordinator of the Sector of Organization of Church Assistance in Emergency Situations of the ROC. We have identified this person.
She has an experience in cooperation with Russian security forces. In 2010, together with OMON and the Main Directorate of Internal Affairs of the City of Moscow, Yufereva organized the delivering of humanitarian aid to the victims of fires.
From the first day of the war, the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Russia daily sends information about the resettlement of Ukrainians from the «DPR» and «LPR» in Russia and the schedule of trains and buses with which the relocated Ukrainians arrive to this email. In addition to each letter, the church also receives a map of the occupied territories of Ukraine with all the changes in the course of hostilities.
The first letter notes that on February 24, 107,819 people arrived from the territories of the CADLR through the checkpoints on the territory of Rostov oblast.
In further reports to Russian churchmen, the Ministry of Emergency Situations already indicates that the information relates not only to the «LPR» and «DPR», but also to other citizens of Ukraine arriving on the territory of the Russian Federation.
The number of Ukrainians relocated to Russia is growing every day. In the last letter sent on March 30, which «Slidstvo.Info» has processed, it is noted that during the deportation to Russia almost 490,000 people has arrived there, including 100,000 children. The same number of forcibly relocated to Russia Ukrainians was announced by the Ombudsman for Human Rights in Ukraine Lyudmyla Denisova recently.
From the emailing we got we also found out, where exactly the Russian clergymen take Ukrainians, as well as the fact that Russian clergymen have set up surveillance cameras for deported Ukrainians. But first let’s take a look at the nature of such fruitful cooperation between the Russian Ministry of Emergencies and the Russian Orthodox Church
The Church and Ministry of Emergencies work together
In early March, Bishop Panteleimon together with the Director of the Department of Civil Defense and Public Protection of the Ministry of Emergencies of Russia, Lieutenant General Oleg Manuil, discussed the terms of cooperation between the ROC and the Ministry of Emergencies of Russia. The church’s website states that the parties «discussed the possibilities of developing humanitarian aid to refugees and affected civilians, as well as cooperation between the Church and the Ministry of Emergencies.»
Bishop Panteleimon is the Deputy Bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Head of the Synodal Department for Charity, the one that is the party of correspondence, with which «Slidstvo.Info» has acquainted.
In April, the aid collected for deported Ukrainians in churches and monasteries of Bryansk, was delivered by employees of the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Russia in Bryansk oblast. That was accompanied by filming.
The employees of the Ministry of Emergency Situations carried church packages in kamazes with the letter Z and the inscription «We Don’t Leave our People Behind».
«Slidstvo.Info» has explored the tradition of cooperation between churchmen and security forces. It turned out that it has been going on since 2010 — then in several Russian oblasts some solemn signings of cooperation agreements between the church and rescuers took place.
For example, in 2010, the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Russia from Buryatia and the Buryat Diocese of the ROC agreed to carry out the joint work in order to help the affected by emergency situations people. As noted on the website of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Russia, this would help «mutual exchange of information, mutual training and cooperation.»
In 2011, an agreement with the local Ministry of Emergency Situations was signed by the Rostov Diocese of the ROC. In the same year, they agreed on the cooperation of the Ministry of Emergency Situations and churchmen in the Chuvash Republic.
In 2017, these relations were finally legalized. The Minister of Emergency Situations Vladimir Puchkov and the Patriarch Kirill of Moscow signed the Agreement on Cooperation between the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church.
It turns out that churchmen and security forces have long been working as a single team in Russia. Therefore, bishop Panteleimon’s statement on possible cooperation with the Ministry of Emergency Situations «in matters of assistance to refugees», that was announced in March 2022, seems, to put it mildly, duplicity.
The Deportation of Ukrainians is Genocide
Russian propaganda explains the mass relocating of Ukrainians from the eastern regions by their own desire to be in Russia. Numerous testimonies of people who, in particular, managed to escape from Mariupol indicate that the residents if the city are being forcibly taken to Russia.
«We have the testimonies of people who are being forcibly taken from filtration camps to Taganrog or Saransk,» the Ombudsman Lyudmila Denisova said in her interview to «Livyy Bereg», «The forcible deportation has the signs of genocide. The forcible transfer of children and other groups to the territory that is conducting an armed conflict is also a sign of genocide.»
Denisova also announced that 600,000 Ukrainians were forcibly taken to Russia and said that she had asked for the lists of our citizens from Russians, but did not receive a response.
The Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine said that they are currently prosecuting two proceedings regarding the deportation of Ukrainians to Russia: «Separately, the huge one regarding the deportation from Ukraine and the one regarding the deportation of children.» The law enforcement officers interpret such the actions of Russians as signs of a war crime.
The Geneva Convention prohibits forced individual or mass resettlement or deportation of people under the protection from the occupied territory to the territory of the occupying party. That is, the forced mass relocating of Ukrainians to Russia should be heard by the international courts.
The Spiritual Conversations and the Surveillance Cameras
A resident of the village of Rubizhne, that is in the line of fire in Donbas, told «Slidstvo.Info» about her 5-day journey through Russia to Estonia and numerous interrogations that she had to undergo on the territory of the occupying state. She has also recalled conversations with the officers of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Russia.
«The most terrible and unpleasant was the communication with the officers of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Russia,» Yulia recalls.
«They’ve been mouthing off Ukraine and our President. They took photos of all our documents.»
Those Ukrainians who failed to get out of Russia after their forced relocation (and that is the vast majority) after «filtration» conversations, in fact interrogations, with employees of the Russian Emergencies Ministry join the second round of filtration — «spiritual». Security forces, who have long and fruitfully cooperated with Russian churchmen, transfer Ukrainians to monasteries and churches.
From the above-mentioned correspondence transmitted to us by the Anonymus group and the DDoSecrets project, as well as from open sources, we learned that almost every region, where the Ukrainians are moved to, has its own diocese that deals with the issues of relocated people. They supply them with food and conduct «spiritual conversations.»
As of March 30, the Ministry of Emergency Situations reported on 700 people relocated from Ukraine to Pskov oblast.
According to the official website of the Moscow Patriarchate, 52 dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church provide assistance to the relocated Ukrainians.
Some dioceses have allocated their monasteries and shelters for the residence of displaced Ukrainians. However, it is still unknown how do people get there, since the possibility of been placed in church institutions of the ROC is not publicly reported. Only the completed resettlements are reported.
It is also difficult to calculate the actual number of the church institutions that deal with the issues of relocated people. Most often, churchmen note that the displaced Ukrainians were assisted by the Tambov Diocese, without specifying the address. We have collected some information on the most mentioned dioceses which help forcibly displaced Ukrainians.
On the official website of the ROC, eight settlements of the Ukrainians on the territory of church institutions of the ROC are reported (we managed to collect information about 11 – Ed.).
«As of April 21, the refugees are mostly housed in the church shelter in the village of Manichskaya, the shelter in Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, the shelter in the Voronezh Diocese, the Iversky Convent of the Rostov Diocese, the Assumption Monastery of the Tver Diocese, Marfoye in Belgorod. Also, with the support of the Church, refugees are housed in the Novocherkassk Diocese of the Rostov Diocese. The refugee family is also hosted by the Kovalevsky orphanage in the Kostroma Diocese,» the website says.
It remains still unknown what is about the people in these shelters and monasteries. The ROC regularly publishes press releases about visits to state boarding houses with Ukrainians but the stay of Ukrainians on the territory of the ROC is not reported.
In the correspondence of the Synodal Department for Charity, we found an interesting letter about the need to install surveillance cameras in the places of stay of displaced Ukrainians. Churchmen say that it should be made for security considerations.
Despite the fact that the ROC is hiding hide the paths of relocating the Ukrainians to their church institutions, the conditions of their detention and even information about surveillance cameras, at the same time churchmen have started a whole information campaign in order to disseminate the information about their charity work. Among the letters, we found a media plan prepared by churchmen to disseminate their messages with the involvement of Russian bloggers and news media.