US says Russia has list of Ukrainians to kill or detain after invasion

Ukrainian military forces walking on the front line with Russian-backed separatists near Novohnativka in the Donetsk region on Feb 20, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - The United States government has sent a letter to the United Nations human rights chief in Geneva saying it has "credible information" that Russian forces have compiled a list of Ukrainian citizens to be killed or sent to detention camps in the aftermath of a Russian invasion and occupation of the country, according to a copy of the letter obtained on Sunday (Feb 20) by The New York Times.

The letter, which was addressed to Ms Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, also said Russian forces planned to carry out widespread human rights violations, which in the past have included torturing and kidnapping civilians.

The likely targets would be people opposed to Russian actions, including dissidents from Russia and Belarus living in Ukraine, journalists, anti-corruption activists, and members of ethnic and religious minorities and the LGBTQ community.

"We also have credible information that Russian forces will likely use lethal measures to disperse peaceful protests or otherwise counter peaceful exercises of perceived resistance from civilian populations," said the letter, which was signed by Ms Bathsheba Nell Crocker, the US Ambassador to the United Nations office in Geneva.

Three US officials confirmed the authenticity of the letter and its contents.

Foreign Policy first reported last Friday on US agencies having intelligence about a Russian "kill list", and The Washington Post first reported on the letter on Sunday.

The letter noted that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had raised the human rights concerns to the United Nations Security Council when he addressed that body last Thursday.

"In particular, he stated that the United States has information that indicates Russia will target specific groups of Ukrainians," the letter said.

In that session, Mr Blinken told Russian officials they could prove their peaceful intentions to the world by not invading Ukraine and addressing their grievances through diplomacy instead.

Mr Blinken plans to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Europe on Thursday, unless Russia invades Ukraine first.

President Joe Biden and Mr Blinken have said US intelligence indicates Russian President Vladimir Putin has already decided to invade.

In recent weeks, Mr Putin has amassed as many as 190,000 troops around Ukraine. Russia-backed insurgents in the east have increased their artillery shelling of Ukrainian military forces in recent days.

Mr Putin invaded parts of Ukraine in 2014 and annexed the country's Crimean Peninsula. Mr Biden has promised to impose harsh economic sanctions on Russia if Mr Putin carries out another invasion.

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