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Yale University researchers say they have discovered 21 “filtration” sites in the Russian-controlled region of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.

Researchers say the sites are used by Russian forces and their allies to process, register, interrogate and detain Ukrainians trying to leave Russian-occupied territory. Detainees may include civilians and prisoners of war.

The Yale School of Public Health’s Humanitarian Research Laboratory (Yale HRL) in collaboration with the US State Department-supported Conflict Observatory used open-source information and high-resolution satellite imagery to create their map. of

According to the report, there is evidence that it was established before the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and escalated after the capture of Mariupol in April.

“The conditions reported by those released from the facilities examined here may constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under international humanitarian and human rights law,” the study says, “Conditions include overcrowded facilities, lack of adequate sanitation, inadequate food and clean water, exposure to the elements, medical Use of denial of service and isolation.

“In certain instances, treatment such as the use of electric shocks, extreme conditions of isolation and physical assault described as having been endured by those released, could potentially amount to torture if proven,” the study said.

In a separate press release on Thursday, the US State Department described the “illegal transfer and deportation of protected persons” described in the study as “a serious violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilians and a war crime”.

Volnovakha Correctional Colony is one of the sites described in the study. Detailed findings allege that this is a long-term facility for unfiltered prisoners of war who surrendered after the siege of the Azovstal steel plant.

The study openly records the accounts of survivors who described, among other things: overcrowded cells, forced labor and even torture. Yale HRL says it identified two areas of disturbed earth along the south and southwest sides of the facility that appear to be mass graves. of

An account cited in a report by someone described as a “survivor” claimed that the cellmate was working inside the colony digging graves. There was a deadly explosion there in July that Ukrainian separatists say killed 53 militants, but the satellite images used for this report are earlier.

The Yale study noted that “without further investigation, including the ability to independently excavate these locations, no definitive determination can be made about what these sites may contain based on the evidence in this report alone.”

Earlier this year CNN spoke to several Ukrainians who underwent “infiltration” and faced threats and insults during the process. He says he was asked about his politics, future plans and views on war. Some people who spoke to CNN said they knew of others who had been picked up by the Russian military or separatist fighters and disappeared without a trace.

The Kremlin has denied using so-called filtration camps to cover up abuses in Mariupol and target civilians.

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In the Yale study, the Russian embassy in Washington said the system is “about checkpoints for civilians leaving active combat zones. To prevent sabotage activities by battalions of Ukrainian nationalists, Russian soldiers carefully inspect vehicles entering safe zones. It adds that it will “arrest bandits and fascists” and the Russian military. Does not create obstacles for citizens but helps them by providing food and medicine.

In a CNN report from July, Dmitry Vachenko, an official at Russia’s Emergencies Ministry in Taganrog, said housing would be provided to Ukrainians, who are free to find work and send their children to school.

“When hostilities end in the future, all these arrivals may decide to return to their homelands. Those who want to live in Russia, the Russian government takes responsibility – they will get a full range of social services and be protected,” he said.

Asked about the process of allowing refugees into Russia, he said there are “filtration points” at the border.

“They are investigating people who have acted aggressively towards the Russian Federation,” he said. “Filtering is precise upon arrival, there are no ‘mass camps’. They are border crossing points, nothing more.”

The self-proclaimed DPR has denied allegations of illegal detention, internment and ill-treatment of Ukrainian citizens by Ukrainian authorities, saying people in so-called “reception centers” are properly fed and given medical care.

“The Donetsk Oblast filtration system operated by Russia and its proxies represents an urgent human rights emergency,” Yale HRL Executive Director Nathaniel Raymond said in a Yale School of Public Health press release. “International monitors today need unfettered access to these facilities. Every day that passes without independent monitors in place increases the risk of serious human rights abuses going unpunished.”

According to the study’s methodology, “Each source was evaluated using criteria established by the Berkeley Protocol on Digital Open Source Investigations.”

It added that the data points were “cross-referenced against recent very high-resolution satellite images. Five separate sources are alleged to have included the site in the report as to the location of the site and the filtration activity taking place there. Twenty-one sites have reached or exceeded their limits.”

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