Occupation governor of Zaporizhzhia Oblast, Yevhen Balytskyi, openly acknowledged that the Russian authorities forcibly deport Ukrainian citizens who oppose Russia's invasion of Ukraine or "offend" Russia and hinted that Russian occupying forces execute Ukrainian citizens without trial or investigation.

This was reported by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

In an interview published on February 20, Balytskyi stated that the Russian occupation authorities “expelled a large number of families… who did not support the special military operation” or “offended” Russia, including disrespecting the Russian flag, anthem, or President Putin. Balytskyi justified these actions, which are war crimes, by claiming that the forced deportation of Ukrainian families was for their own good, as the occupation authorities would have to “deal with” them in an even “harsher” way in the future, or they would be killed by other pro-Russian citizens.

He said that the occupation authorities “gave [deported families] the opportunity to leave”, but some were deported by force, “given a bottle of water” at the border. He also stated that the occupation authorities were forced to make some “extremely tough decisions, which [he] will not talk about” — a possible allusion to Russian occupying forces carrying out executions without trial or investigation of Ukrainian citizens.

The Institute for the Study of War has repeatedly reported that Russia forcibly deports Ukrainian citizens, including children, and continues to believe that Russia is attempting to destroy Ukrainian language, culture, history, ethnic identity, and identity, including through actions that violate the Convention on the Prevention of Genocide and punishment for it. Balytskyi’s statements about the deportation of Ukrainian citizens who criticize Russian occupation indicate that Russian deportation campaigns partly aim to Russify the population of occupied Ukraine through coercion and fear. Balytskyi’s readiness to openly discuss and even defend the illegal actions of the Russian occupation authorities towards Ukrainian citizens in a high-profile interview demonstrates how much the Russian authorities support and encourage such policies.

Photo: open sources