Attrition: Ethnic Cleansing in Ukraine


July 29, 2023: Russia has practiced ethnic cleansing for centuries. This involves moving one ethnic group and replacing it with another. Most Western nations now consider this a war crime though it still occurs and often goes unpunished. A current example is the Russian occupation forces in Ukraine who are now trying to ethnically cleanse the remaining Russian-occupied areas after outright failing to pacify the locals, who were remarkably uncooperative and often violently opposed to the Russian occupation. This was made worse by Russian efforts to get local Ukrainians to cooperate in accepting the fact that Russia now considered them Russians, by trying to take away Ukrainian identity documents, including passports, and replace them with Russian documents. That did not work and, worse, many local Ukrainians joined the armed partisans and that included killing Russian-appointed officials. Russia, per its centuries-old ethnic cleansing solution to troublesome minorities, believes the easiest way to get rid of the partisans is to send all the Ukrainians to Russia and replace them with Russians. Russia calls this “filtration” but this is a war crime according to the Geneva Convention. In March 2023: Vladimir Putin was indicted by the ICC (International Criminal Court) for war crimes.

This all began when, having occupied portions of the Ukraine in the current war, Russia sought to find enough local Ukrainian collaborators to allow convincing propaganda videos to be made. This effort was disrupted by widespread and often violent resistance to the occupation, including attacks on collaborators and efforts to stage a fake election. Russian efforts to cut occupied areas off from the outside world have been energetic but not enough. Replacing Ukrainian cell phone service with Russian cell service was not enough. Civilians risked arrest and worse by keeping their Ukrainian cell phones to collect and smuggle out videos of what is really going on. This included threats, sometimes carried out, to cut electrical service and access to clean water. Threats were made and carried out to take children from families and send the kids to Russia as hostages.

At first Russia resorted to what they called filtration to identify the Ukrainian civilians most hostile to the occupation and the planned referendum to justify Russian annexation of these areas. Filtration had worked in the past but was ineffective when the civilians knew that there was a war going on to liberate them from Russian occupation. This changed civilian attitudes in Crimea and Donbas that had been under Russian control since 2014. Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces had been occupied by the Russians in the first month of the 2022 invasion and proved largely immune to filtration because the initial Russian offensive in the north was quickly defeated with heavy Russian losses. Russian troops who escaped that defeat were sent to Donbas, Crimea, Kherson and Zaporyzhzhia where they confirmed the defeat in the north. The Ukrainian military kept expanding and receiving more weapons from NATO allies.

This led to the September 2022 Ukrainian offensive that drove Russian forces out of northeast Ukraine and portions off Donbas. Large quantities of Russian armored vehicles and trucks were captured intact, plus thousands of tons of artillery ammunition. Within weeks the captured materials, especially the artillery ammunition, equipped Ukrainian units successfully drove the Russians out of large parts of occupied Donbas, Kherson and Zaporizhzhya. The September offensive also put about 20 percent of Russian troops in Ukraine out of action. This caused problems in Donbas and Crimea where local men who had been conscripted into the armed forces refused to serve outside the provinces they came from. They would defend their home province but would not fight anywhere else.

Russia had worse problems getting any new troops to serve in Ukraine because the news that Russia was losing in Ukraine had become common knowledge in Russia and military-age men were desperate not to be “mobilized” to serve in Ukraine. Those who did find themselves in uniform soon discovered that all the stories were true. The new troops were given decrepit equipment and less than two weeks training before being sent off to die in Ukraine.

It wasn’t just Ukrainian soldiers the Russian troops had to worry about. More civilians in Russian occupied areas were getting armed and organized so they could attack Russian officials and Ukrainian collaborators. The Russians sent to operate the filtration process were sought out for attack and Russian troops found that the safest thing to do was stay out of the way of the armed and angry partisans. A growing number of Russian civilians and Ukrainian collaborators were leaving occupied Ukraine for Russia.

As a result of this, Russia is now trying to depopulate Russian -occupied Ukraine of Ukrainians and replace them with Russians. Rounding up Ukrainian women and children is relatively easy compared to the men. Many of their men were violently opposed to deportation and more of them joined the partisans. Russia doesn’t have enough troops or Russian police to handle this so the occupied areas have become hazardous for Russian troops to operate in, and much more so for any collaborators or Russians imported to serve as local officials. So far no Russian civilians have appeared to replace the Ukrainians kidnapped into Russia. Apparently filtration works both ways and the armed and unarmed Ukrainians are trying to filtrate the Russians out of Ukraine.




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