Ombudsman: Russia not releasing civilians as witnesses of atrocities

Ombudsman: Russia not releasing civilians as witnesses of atrocities

The Russian invasion forces refuse to release illegally held Ukrainian civilians because they can automatically be witnesses of Russian atrocities in the temporarily occupied territories.

Ukrainian Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets said this during a discussion of the issue of civilian hostages held by Russia, an Ukrinform correspondent reports.

"The Russian Federation, according to our observations, does not release civilians because they can automatically be witnesses of Russian atrocities in temporarily occupied areas. In general, in my opinion, the detention and holding of civilians is a new system of pressure on the civilian population that remains in place and thrives in those areas. This is a system of pressure in line with the worst practices of 1937, during the rule of the Soviet government," Lubinets noted.

Read also: Lubinets calls on two international committees to visit Ukrainian POW detention facilities

According to the ombudsman, his Office has confirmed data that Russia tortures civilians, subjects them to sexual and psychological violence, gives them no access to medical care, and holds them in inadequate conditions.

The ombudsman noted that the issue of speeding up the return of civilians depends primarily on Ukraine.

"We understand that we cannot hope, with all due respect to our international partners, that they will be the drivers of the process. Only Ukraine as a state is obliged to do everything to return our civilians," Lubinets believes.

Read also: People disappear in temporarily occupied territories after being detained by security forces

The Human Rights Commissioner is convinced that international partners can help Ukraine in this regard, but initiating new processes, discussions, public and non-public events is the task to be addressed by Ukrainian authorities.

He expressed the opinion that Ukraine would be able to return all civilians only once global legal order has been restored.

"As long as the Russian Federation shows by all its actions that it violates all norms of international humanitarian law and there is no liability for this, we will not be able to significantly change the situation, including of civilian hostages," the ombudsman said.

As reported, with reference to Dmytro Lubinets, as of December 2023, a total of 28,000 Ukrainian civilians were held captive by the Russian Federation.

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