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Ukraine denounced Russia’s “filtration” scheme at a United Nations Security Council meeting Wednesday.
Deputy Ukrainian Ambassador to the UN Khrystyna Hayovyshyn said Ukrainians forced to head to Russia or Russian-controlled territory are being killed and tortured.
Hayovyshyn told the Security Council that thousands of Ukrainian citizens are being forcefully deported to “isolated and depressed regions of Siberia and the far east. The Ambassador said 2.5 million people have been deported, including 38,000 children.
Ukrainian citizens are terrorized, under the pretense of a search for "dangerous" people by Russian authorities, Hayovyshyn said. Those who have different political views or are affiliated with the Ukrainian government or media disappear into a gray area. Children are ripped from the arms of their parents, the Ukraine representative declared.
United States Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Wednesday that Russia’s “filtration operations,” which Russia has allegedly used to interrogate and forcibly transport Ukrainian citizens to Russia, are “horrifying.”
“A growing number of eyewitnesses and survivors of 'filtration' operations tell stories of threats, harassment, and incidents of torture by Russian security forces. They’ve had their biometric data captured, identification documents confiscated, and all means of communication cut off. They’ve been subject to invasive searches, interrogation under inhumane and demeaning circumstances. It really is horrifying,” Thomas-Greenfield told reporters outside the UN Security Council chamber.
"So why are they doing this?,” Thomas-Greenfield later asked during her remarks to the Security Council. “The reason is simple: to prepare for an attempted annexation.”
“The goal is to change sentiments by force. To provide a fraudulent veneer of legitimacy for the Russian occupation and eventual, purported annexation of even more Ukrainian territory. This effort to fabricate these facts on the ground is the predicate to sham referenda. It is part of the Russian playbook for Ukraine that we have been warning Council members about since even before the war began,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
“These referenda will attempt to create a false semblance of legality and public support, so Russia feels it can annex Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, and other regions of Ukraine. Of course, we will never recognize any efforts by Russia to change Ukraine’s borders by force. We must hold the perpetrators of these atrocities to account. We must respond as an international community — an international community that still respects the UN Charter,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has documented “filtration” cases, during which “Russian armed forces and affiliated armed groups have subjected persons to body searches, sometimes involving forced nudity, and detailed interrogations about the personal background, family ties, political views and allegiances of the individual concerned,” according to Ilze Brands Kehris, United Nations assistant secretary-general for Human Rights.
“They examined personal belongings, including mobile devices, and gathered personal identity data, pictures and fingerprints. In some cases, those awaiting ‘filtration’ spent nights in vehicles, or in unequipped and overcrowded premises, sometimes without adequate access to food, water and sanitation. We are particularly concerned that women and girls are at risk of sexual abuse during ‘filtration’ procedures,” Brands Kehris said.
The UN OHCHR has also documented cases of men and women “perceived as having ties with Ukrainian armed forces or state institutions, or as having pro-Ukrainian or anti-Russian views” being subjected to torture, arbitrary detention, and “enforced disappearance.”
They were transferred to penal colonies, including the now infamous penal colony near Olenivka, and pre-trial detention centers, where they were interrogated and sometimes tortured to extract a so-called "confession" of their active cooperation with the government of Ukraine.
Some detainees were released after one or two months, while others remain detained as of today, with no or little information for their families about their whereabouts and fate,” Brands Kehris said.
Over 6.9 million people remain internally displaced in Ukraine, with most of the newly-displaced coming from eastern and southern Ukraine. There have been 5,718 civilians killed, including 372 children, and 8,199 injured, 635 being children, during the war so far, Rosemary DiCarlo, UN under-secretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs, said Wednesday.
DiCarlo added that “these are only verified figures and the actual numbers are likely significantly higher.”
Russia denies forced "filtration" allegations: Refugees and displaced persons in Russia are given health and financial assistance, Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia said in his remarks to the UN Security Council Wednesday.
He said newcomers go through “registration,” not "filtration" procedures.
It’s very unfortunate that human rights groups are making unfounded allegations against Russia, Nebenzia said. "We have wasted time" discussing this issue rather than real issues, he said.
Nebenzia described the West's concerns as "fantasies" and said no one is preventing people from leaving Russia. Ukraine is moving people out, even if they are safe in the affected regions, he claimed. “Kiev saboteurs” are attacking areas where people want to leave, charged the ambassador.
"People are fleeing Ukraine, more for fear of Ukraine,” Nebenzia said.
The United Nations said Wednesday that there have been credible allegations of forced transfers of Ukrainian children to “Russian occupied territory, or to the Russian Federation itself,” Ilze Brands Kehris, the United Nations assistant secretary-general for human rights, said.
“We are concerned that the Russian authorities have adopted a simplified procedure to grant Russian citizenship to children without parental care, and that these children would be eligible for adoption by Russian families,” Brands Kehris said. “Moreover, we are particularly concerned that the announced plans of the Russian authorities to allow the movement of children from Ukraine to families in the Russian Federation do not appear to include steps for family reunification or in other ways ensure respect for the principle of the best interests of the child.”
Brands Kehris was addressing the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday, during a meeting called by representatives from the United States and Albania to discuss the forced displacements of Ukrainian civilians and the use of "filtration" operations by Russia in their war in Ukraine.
CNN’s Richard Roth contributed reporting to this post.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday hit back at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s criticism of the UN-brokered Black Seas Initiative to export Ukraine’s grain.
“Today in Russia, another blatantly false statement was made that the absolute majority of Ukrainian grain is allegedly exported to European countries,” Zelensky said in his evening address. “Well, true words have not been heard at the official level in Russia for a long time, and this does not surprise anyone.”
“By the end of this month, at least three million tons of agricultural products can be exported from our seaports,” Zelensky said. “And a significant part is intended for the poorest and most needy countries.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Putin claimed that “only 3% of the grain being exported from Ukraine is going to developing countries, the majority is going to Europe.”
More background: In figures shared with CNN on Wednesday, the United Nations said that roughly 30% of exports under the initiative have gone to countries classified as low- or lower-middle-income.
A further 37% of exports have gone to European Union countries. On top of that, 20% has gone to Turkey, though the UN advised that some of those shipments may have been sent on to Asia or Africa.
“Unlike Russia,” Zelensky said, “we do not make a racist division of the world into those who deserve security and those who supposedly do not; into those who deserve to live without hunger and those who supposedly do not. We support all people, all countries. And those who help us, and those who still refrain from helping us."
"And those that are more stable and those that are less stable. I emphasize once again: Ukraine was, is and will be the guarantor of world food security," he aded.
With previous reporting from CNN's Teele Rebane, Clare Sebastian and Hannah Ritchie.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday thanked three brigades involved in operations to recapture Russian-held territory in the northeastern Kharkiv region.
“This week we have good news from Kharkiv region,” Zelensky said in his evening address. “Probably, you all have already seen reports about the activity of Ukrainian defenders. And, I think, every citizen feels proud of our soldiers. It is a well-deserved pride, a right feeling.”
“Now is not the time to name these or that settlements to which the Ukrainian flag is returning to,” he said. “But it's time to say thanks to the 25th Airborne Brigade, the 92nd Separate Mechanized Brigade and the 80th Airborne Assault Brigade for their bravery and heroism, shown during combat missions.”
He also thanked units stationed in southern Ukraine “for the extremely successful hits” on occupying Russian forces.
“The more difficult it is for the occupiers, the more losses they have, the better the positions for our defenders in Donbas will be, the more reliable the defense of Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv, and the cities of Dnipropetrovsk region will be, the faster we will be able to liberate the Azov region and the entire south," he continued.
Estonia's economy minister has stressed the need for unity ahead of Friday's emergency meeting of European Union Energy Ministers in Brussels.
Riina Sikkut, Estonian Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure told CNN's Quest Means Business that the 27-nation bloc must stay united in terms of answering Russia's threat and in dealing with the changes in the energy market.
Sikkut said, "Democratic states being united in tough times against Russia is a weapon Putin can never match. The challenge for Europe is to be united, to find a solution to reduce energy demand, to cap Russian energy sources and to actually come off Russian energy as quickly as possible. We have the political will, if we have the solidarity and unity we will survive the tough winter."
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, proposed an EU-wide plan on Wednesday to tackle the energy crisis. This involves a price cap on Russian gas. Russian President Putin says Moscow would react by stopping supplies to Europe completely.
Shelling on Tuesday damaged a backup power line that would supply Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in case of emergency, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
“Of the three back-up lines between the ZNPP and the thermal power station, one is now damaged by shelling, while the two others are disconnected, senior Ukrainian operating staff informed IAEA experts present at the plant since last week,” the IAEA said in a statement.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been held by Russian forces since early March, but is still operated by Ukrainian staff. The IAEA Director General visited the power plant last week, and two IAEA experts stayed to maintain a permanent presence at the plant.
The IAEA said that the shelling damage did not “have an immediate impact” on the plant, because the electricity line was not connected to the grid at the time.
“For the last few days, the ZNPP has relied on its sole operating reactor for the power it needs for cooling and other safety functions,” the IAEA said on Wednesday. “While the plant also has emergency diesel generators available if needed, Director General Grossi has repeatedly expressed concern about the power supply situation.”
“A secure off-site power supply from the grid and back-up power supply systems are essential for ensuring nuclear safety and preventing a nuclear accident. This requirement is among the seven indispensable nuclear safety and security pillars that the Director General outlined at the beginning of the conflict," the agency continued.