The United States said Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s office is directly managing the forced relocation of thousands of Ukrainians into Russia.
The US State Department demanded Russia halt the program as the UN Security Council was to hold talks on the issue.
“The United States has information that officials for Russia’s presidential administration are overseeing and coordinating filtration operations,” said State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel.
“We are further aware that the Russian presidential administration officials are providing lists of Ukrainians to be targeted for filtration and receiving reports on the scope and progress of operations.”
The Kremlin has been accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity for moving Ukrainian adults and children into Russia since invading Ukraine on February 24.
Patel said the forced relocation, or filtration, targets people that Moscow decides could be a potential threat to Russian control over Ukraine.
Some are relocated into Russian camps to clear out populations in eastern Ukraine regions that Russia has occupied; others are sent to prisons in Russia, according to US officials.
The operation involves using technology, including facial recognition and biometric data, and databases to find and move individuals from their homes, said Patel.
“Russia has systematically used the practice of forced deportations previously, and the fear and misery it evokes for people forced to live under the Kremlin’s control are hard to overstate,” said Patel.
“We assess that the Kremlin use filtration operations as a crucial to their efforts annex areas of Ukraine under their control.”
The UN Security Council was to meet Wednesday afternoon on the issue.
In July US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Russia of forcibly deporting up to 1.6 million Ukrainians.
“The unlawful transfer and deportation of protected persons is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians and is a war crime,” Blinken said.