During the two months of the war in Ukraine, Russia forcibly removed about 600,000 Ukrainians from the occupied territories, 117,000 of whom were children. These are mainly the eastern regions of Ukraine, in particular, Mariupol. The mass deportation and resettlement of Ukrainians through Russia shows signs of genocide - criminal proceedings have already been instituted in Ukraine against such actions of the occupiers.
Before crossing the Russian border, so-called "filtration" talks are held with Ukrainians, ie interrogations. Then the documents and telephones are confiscated - the further fate of the deportees is mostly unknown.
Slidstvo.Info found out that one of the key roles in the deportation and resettlement of Ukrainians is played by the Russian Orthodox Church. Russia's Ministry of Emergency Situations is passing on information about the deportees to the clergy, and they are already centrally resettling them in churches and monasteries. Journalists have determined the location of church institutions where Ukrainians who have been forcibly deported may be staying.
Correspondence of churchmen
From the very beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations has been sending reports on the occupied territories and deported Ukrainians to the Synodal Department of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). The Ministry of Emergencies informs churchmen daily about changes in the occupied territories and, more interestingly, about the number of Ukrainians forcibly deported - routes and time of delivery of people from Ukraine to Russia.
Slidstvo.Info learned about this after reading emails from the ROC charity wing, which were shared with us by hackers from Anonymous and the DDoSecrets project.
The mail from which the correspondence was conducted is called email@example.com - it seems that it was created specifically for contacts between Russian clergy and security forces in the war in Ukraine. The first test letter to this mail 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 the organization of church assistance in emergency situations of the ROC. We have identified this person - he has a long history of cooperation with Russian security forces: in 2010, together with the riot police and the Moscow Interior Ministry, Yufereva organized the sending of humanitarian aid to fire victims.
From the first day of the war, the Ministry of Emergencies of Russia sends daily to a specially created post office information about the resettlement of Ukrainians from the "DPR" and "LPR" in Russia and the schedule of trains and buses arriving deported Ukrainians. In addition to each letter, the church receives a map of the occupied territories of Ukraine with all the changes during the hostilities.
The first letter states that on February 24, 107,819 people came from the territories of ORDLO through the checkpoints to the territory of the Rostov region.
Subsequent reports to Russian clergymen of the Ministry of Emergencies already indicate that the information concerns not only the "LPR" and "DPR", but also other citizens of Ukraine arriving in Russia.
The number of Ukrainians deported to Russia is growing every day. The latest letter from March 30, which is available to Slidstva.Info, states that during the entire period of deportation, almost 490,000 people arrived in Russia, including 100,000 children. The Ukrainian ombudswoman Lyudmila Denisova called the same number of Ukrainians forcibly deported to Russia in her statements those days.
Schedule of trains transporting deported Ukrainians to Russia as of March 30. The data was sent to the Ministry of Emergencies of Russia by mail of the ROC.
From the correspondence we received, we also learned exactly where Russian clergymen take Ukrainians, as well as the fact that Russian clergymen have set up surveillance cameras for deported Ukrainians. But first let's look at the nature of such fruitful cooperation between the Russian Ministry of Emergencies and the Russian Orthodox Church.
Church and MOE 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 together with the Director of the Department of Civil Defense and Public Protection of the Ministry of Emergencies of Russia, Lieutenant-General Oleg Manuil, discuss possible cooperation between the Ministry of Emergencies and the Russian Orthodox Church
Bishop Panteleimon is the deputy bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church and the head of the Synodal Department of Charity, the one with whom Slidstvo.Info has become acquainted.
Already in April, aid to deported Ukrainians, which was collected in Bryansk churches and monasteries, was delivered by officers of the Main Directorate of the Ministry for Emergencies of Russia in Bryansk Oblast.
On KAMAZ trucks with the letter Z and the inscription "We do not abandon ours", the staff of the Ministry of Emergencies carried church packages.
Slidstvo.Info researched the tradition of cooperation between churchmen and security officers. It turned out that it has been going on since 2010 when solemn agreements on cooperation between the church and rescuers were signed in several Russian regions.
For example, in 2010 the main department of the Ministry of Emergencies of Russia from Buryatia and the Buryat Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church agreed to work together to help the affected population in emergencies. As noted then, on the website of the Ministry of Emergencies of Russia, this will help "mutual exchange of information, mutual learning, and cooperation."
In 2011, an agreement with the local Ministry of Emergencies was signed by the Rostov Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church. In the same year, the Ministry of Emergencies and the clergy in the Chuvash Republic agreed to cooperate.
In 2017, these relations were finally legalized: the head of the Ministry of Emergencies of Russia Vladimir Puchkov, and Moscow Patriarch Kirill signed an Agreement on Cooperation between the Ministry of Emergencies of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church.
It turns out that churchmen and security officers in Russia have been working as a team for a long time. Therefore, Bishop Panteleimon's statement in March 2022 about possible cooperation with the Ministry of Emergencies "in helping refugees" looks, to put it mildly, cunning.
The deportation of Ukrainians is genocide
Russian propaganda explains the mass resettlement of Ukrainians from the eastern regions as driven by the Ukrainians’ desire to be in Russia. This is false. Numerous testimonies of people who, in particular, managed to escape from Mariupol show that citizens are forcibly deported to Russia.
"We have testimonies of people who are forcibly taken from filtration camps to Taganrog or Saransk," said Ombudswoman Lyudmila Denisova in an interview with the Left Bank. "Forced deportation shows signs of genocide." The forcible transfer of children and other groups to the territory of the armed conflict is also a sign of genocide. "
Denisova also announced the figure of 600,000 Ukrainians forcibly deported to Russia and said that she had asked the Russians for lists of our citizens, but had not received a response.
The Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine stated that they are currently conducting two cases concerning the deportation of Ukrainians to Russia: "a separate one is about the deportation from Ukraine, a separate one is about children." Law enforcement officers see in such actions of Russians signs of a war crime.
The Geneva Convention prohibits the forced individual or mass resettlement or deportation of persons under protection from the occupied territories to the territory of the occupying power. That is, the forced mass deportation of Ukrainians to Russia should be considered in international courts.
Spiritual conversations and surveillance cameras
A resident of the village of Rubizhne, on the line of fire in Donbas, told Slidstvo.Info about her 5-day trip through Russia to Estonia and a series of interrogations she had to go through in the territory of the occupying state. Separately, she mentioned conversations with Russian MOE members.
"The most terrible and pleasant thing was communication with the Russian Ministry of Emergencies," Yulia recalls. - They poured mud on both Ukraine and our president. They re-photographed all our documents. "
The same Ukrainians who failed to leave Russia after being forcibly deported (and the vast majority of them) after "filtering" conversations, in fact, interrogations, with the staff of the Russian Ministry of Emergencies fall into the second round of filtering - "spiritual". The security forces, which have long and fruitfully cooperated with Russian clergy, transfer Ukrainians to monasteries and churches.
From the above-mentioned correspondence provided to us by the Anonymus group and the DDoSecrets project, as well as from open sources, we learned that almost every region where Ukrainians are brought in has its own diocese that takes care of immigrants. They bring them food and hold "spiritual conversations."
As of March 30, the Ministry of Emergencies reported 700 IDPs from Ukraine in the Pskov region alone.
According to the official website of the Moscow Patriarchate, 52 dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church provide assistance to deported Ukrainians.
Some dioceses have allocated their monasteries and shelters for displaced Ukrainians. However, it is unknown how people get there, as the ROC does not publicly announce the possibility of placement in church institutions. Only reports on completed resettlements.
It is just as difficult to count the specific church institutions that deal with immigrant issues. Churchgoers often say that the Tambov Eparchy provided assistance to displaced Ukrainians, without specifying a specific address. We have gathered information on the most mentioned dioceses in the news that help forcibly displaced Ukrainians.
The official website of the ROC reports on eight settlements of Ukrainians on the territory of church institutions of the ROC (we managed to gather information about 11 such institutions - Ed.). "Until April 21 in Russia, refugees are housed in a church shelter in the village of Manichskaya, a shelter in Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, a shelter in the Voronezh diocese, the Iversky convent of the Rostov diocese, the Assumption Convent in the Tver diocese, Marfode in Bilgo. Also with the support of the Church, refugees were placed in Novocherkassk of the Rostov diocese. The family of refugees was received by the Kovalevsky orphanage in the Kostroma diocese, "the website says.
What is happening to people in these shelters and monasteries is unknown. If the ROC regularly publishes press releases about visiting state boarding houses with Ukrainians, the stay of Ukrainians on the territory of the ROC is not advertised.
In the correspondence of the Synodal Department of Charity, we found an interesting letter about the need to install surveillance cameras in the places of residence of displaced Ukrainians. The clergy explains this by security considerations.
Despite the fact that the ROC conceals the ways of delivering Ukrainians to their church institutions, the conditions of their detention, and even more information about the surveillance cameras for forcibly deported people, at the same time churchmen launched an information campaign to spread information about their charity. Among the letters, we found a media plan prepared by the clergy to spread their messages with the involvement of Russian bloggers and news media.