The transfer of people to another state during war is a serious violation of international law. Nevertheless, Russian troops continue doing this, for a number of reasons. Some of these people get taken to Russia as hostages, others to Belarus for medical treatment.
27-year-old Ivan Drozd from Katyuzhanka was abducted by the Russian military at the very beginning of the invasion, on February 28. It happened near Dymer, when Ivan walked into a Russian ambush. Seeing soldiers and not realizing they were Russians, he shouted, «Glory to Ukraine!» Ivan was detained on the spot.
«We were about three kilometers from Dymer. There was a field. I thought we were close to Kozarovychi by then. We crossed some sort of barrier, and there were soldiers in the bushes. They said, “Halt, who goes there?” Vanya said, “Guys, don’t shoot, we’re on your side, Glory to Ukraine.” So they are like, “Yeah, right, glory to Ukraine, now get down on the ground.” We thought they were ours …,» recalls Igor, who had joined Ivan shortly before that.
They were both captured and taken to a construction supplies warehouse in Kozarovychi. It was there that UNIAN journalist Dmytro Khyliuk and hundreds more of Kyiv Oblast residents were held. Five days later, the men were taken to a foundry in Dymer. After another five days of abuse and beatings, the Russians brought a list of those to be «released». According to Igor, there were about ten names on that list, including Ivan’s. As it turned out, only one of these people was actually released – a 75-year-old man – and the rest were taken to Russia. Igor was released from the foundry on March 23.
Released prisoners mentioned to MIHR and Ivan’s wife that they heard his name at the Novozybkov SIZO (pre-trial detention center) in Bryansk Oblast. According to the former prisoners, Russia was accusing them of participating in the conflict to pass them off as combatants and eventually exchange Ukrainian civilians for Russian soldiers. Ivan’s wife was told by Ukraine’s Ministry of Reintegration that he’s already on the exchange list.
Truth Hounds and MIHR recently discovered another location where people were held in Chernihiv Oblast. It’s the village of Yagidne, where Russian soldiers kept hundreds of people in a basement, including children and the elderly. Poor air supply killed several people there, but the Russians would only allow burying them once at least three bodies had «accumulated.»
Even in the brief moments when people were allowed to come out and breathe fresh air, there was shelling. 14-year-old Sergiy got hit in one. According to Alina, his older sister, he had a large wound onhis shoulder blade. The boy had spent the whole night in the basement. The next day, a car arrived, and the Russians said they would take him to the village of Vyshneve in Chernihiv Oblast. However, they were actually taking him to Belarus. He was brought to a hospital in Gomel where he underwent two operations. Sergiy’s sister only managed to contact him in April. She had to travel to Belarus to get him back.
According to Andriy Yakovlev from the law firm Umbrella, the transfer of civilians to another state is prohibited by the Geneva Conventions.
«Article 47 of the IV Geneva Convention states that deportation or displacement of civilians is a serious violation of international humanitarian law. It’s also a war crime, under both national law and the Rome Statute. In national law, it’s Article 438 of Ukraine’s Criminal Code. It states that violations of the laws or customs of war are criminally liable based on their intensity. The Rome Statute provides for such cases in three articles,» says Andriy Yakovlev.