The Pentagon said on Monday it had seen indications that Ukrainians caught up in the Russian invasion were being forcibly removed from their homeland and sent to Russia.
“I can’t say how many camps or what they look like,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters when asked about claims from kyiv that some 1.2 million Ukrainians were being sent to Russia and placed in camps.
“But we have indications that Ukrainians are being taken against their will to Russia,” Kirby said. He called the actions “inadmissible” and “not the behavior of a responsible power”.
The expulsion of Ukrainians from their own nation – often to isolated or economically disadvantaged regions of Russia, according to kyiv – is another indication that Russian President Vladimir Putin “simply will not accept and respect Ukrainian sovereignty”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in early April, six weeks after Russia launched its deadly invasion, that thousands of Ukrainians had been sent to Russian territory.
But that figure has since climbed to more than 1.19 million, including at least 200,000 children, said Ukrainian ombudsman Lyudmyla Denisova.
Kirby refrained from describing the deportations as ethnic cleansing, stressing that it was not for the Pentagon to make such decisions. But he said there was ample evidence of “Russian brutality” during the war.
Moscow had “75 days of brutalizing the Ukrainian nation and the Ukrainian people”, he said. “And every time you think they just can’t fall to a new low, they prove you wrong.”
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