Russia's armed aggression in the east of Ukraine

The Russian Federation launched an undeclared war against Ukraine over eight years ago. Having illegally occupied and attempted to annex the Crimean peninsula, the Kremlin moved on to the next stage of its armed aggression in the Ukrainian Donbas.

Units of Russian special forces and other armed formations of the Russian Federation, Russian military "on vacation" and military advisors - and without any insignias - in an organized, methodical and targeted manner seized local government institutions, police stations, and Ukrainian military facilities in Donbas. It carried out other forceful operations against the Ukrainian army and law enforcement agencies. Continuous artillery and rocket attacks on positions held by the Ukrainian border guards and the Armed Forces of Ukraine came from the territory of the Russian Federation. Russian military units with heavy equipment and other means carried out an armed incursion and directly participated in military actions on Ukraine's territory. This is evidenced by the detention and capture of numerous Russian regular armed forces and units subordinated to the Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation personnel in the course of these hostilities.

Russian military presence in the occupied part of Donbas continues to this day. Illegal crossing of the uncontrolled by the Government of Ukraine section of the Ukrainian-Russian border by transport convoys and military equipment to strengthen and rotate Russian regular armed forces and units subordinated to the Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation have become a constant practice. Information on regular violations of the Ukrainian State border is present in numerous OSCE reports.

These facts are recorded, confirmed, and are not subject to any doubt. Documentary and other evidence of Russia's role and direct participation in the armed conflict against Ukraine has been and will continue to be submitted by the Ukrainian side to international jurisdictional institutions.

Therefore, persistent claims by Russian officials about Russia's allegedly "mediating" role in the Donbas peace process were aimed solely at misleading the entire international community. The large-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russian armed forces on February 24, 2022, demonstrated that since the first day of the armed conflict, which began back in 2014, it has not and cannot, in principle, take a mediative role in the war it started and in which it continues to participate.

The Minsk agreements (February 12, 2015) and "Paris "Normandie" Summit - Common Agreed Conclusions (December 19, 2019), mediated by the OSCE, as well as Germany and France, whose implementation continued to serve as the basis for a political and diplomatic settlement of the conflict, had been deliberately ignored by Russia since the very first day. One need only recall the seizure of Debaltseve and other Ukrainian territories almost seven years ago - within days of Russia's signing of the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements of February 12, 2015, and its failure to implement the ceasefire along the line of demarcation.

All further actions by Russia from 2014 onwards are aimed at destroying any efforts to end the conflict and peacefully reintegrate the occupied Ukrainian territories.

The Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict in Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions has led to negative humanitarian consequences, such as military and civilian casualties and significant damage to civilian facilities and infrastructure.

Moreover, the said armed conflict has given rise to mass arrests of civilians, particularly random ones, as well as tortures and murders by the representatives of the socalled "Russian occupation administrations" operating in the temporarily occupied territories in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The detainees were held incommunicado in secret detention. They were subject to torture and ill-treatment, including psychological and sexual violence.

According to official data, as of February 2022, 317 people were held in at least 26 illegal prisons (de facto concentration camps) in the temporarily occupied territories in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. 234 of them were held in occupied parts of the Donetsk region, and 83 - in occupied parts of the Luhansk region, of which 73 were in critical health condition, including 33 women.

183 persons (of which 66 - military personnel) were considered missing. Among the specified number of citizens of Ukraine there are those who have been held in captivity for more than 5-6 years.

The cellars of city water plants, police stations and public prosecution buildings, basements of private homes and schools, abandoned mines of Donbas were turned into places for illegal imprisonment of citizens.

Russia-backed illegal armed formations equipped one of these illegal prisons on the site of the factory for the production of insulating materials (stopped its work in the 1990s), which was transformed into the "Izolyatsia" art fund and implemented art projects from 2010 to 2014.

According to the report of the organization "Media Initiative for Human Rights" and experts of the non-governmental organization "Deutsch-Russischer Austausch - DRA" (Berlin), since June 2014 the "Vostok" battalion has been deployed on the seized territory of the plant (an armed formation of the self-proclaimed so-called "Donetsk People's Republic", which was staffed by pro-Russian volunteers and fought against units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and battalions of territorial self-defense), and both prisoners of war and civilian hostages were kept in its premises.

According to a report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 16 November 16, 2019, to February, 15, 2020, detainees in the "Izolyatsia" were subjected to torture, including electric shocks and through mock executions and sexual violence. According to the report, interrogations were carried out by representatives of the so-called "Ministry of State Security" of the self-proclaimed so-called "Donetsk People's Republic".

Former hostages point out that the buildings of "Izolyatsia" are not suitable for holding people, which, together with regular physical violence by the detainees, creates conditions close to those of a concentration camp. Prisoners of war and civilian hostages did not receive adequate medical care; they were forced to work for retainers. They have also been deprived of water and food.

Almost all those held in the "Izolyatsia" were involved in forced labour. When the fighters were on their way to exercises or the front line, detained persons were forced to load weapons, collect scrap metal, dismantle buildings into bricks, clean the yard every day of snow, dust, and leaves, work in the kitchen, and take care of domestic animals.

Journalist Stanislav Aseyev, who was held in "Izolyatsia" prison from 2017-2019, believes that crimes that can be qualified as war crimes were committed in the prison, and also mentions torture that led to suicide attempts among prisoners.

In May 2022, during Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russian terrorists carried out "filtration" of people from the occupied Mariupol. They took all relatives of military personnel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, former law enforcement officers, activists, journalists and "suspicious" people to the former penal colony No. 52 in the village of Olenivka, Donetsk region, or to the "Izolyatsia" prison.

After the Paris Summit of the Normandy Format (09.12.2019) two phases of simultaneous release of prisoners took place on 29 December 2019 and 16 April 2020, during which 80 civilians were returned to the Government-controlled territory of Ukraine.

At the same time, since July 2020, the issue of preparing and conducting the next stages of simultaneous releases of detainees, which was discussed in the framework of consultations of the Working Subgroup on Humanitarian Issues of the Trilateral Contact Group for the peaceful settlement of the situation in Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine, was blocked by the Russian side and representatives of the Russian occupation administrations.

The Working Subgroup on Humanitarian Issues ceased its work in connection with the large-scale invasion of Ukraine by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation on 24 February 2022.

In the temporarily Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) do not have systematic access to places of imprisonment, despite the agreements made during the Paris Summit of the Normandy Format (09.12.2019). The Ukrainian side is only aware of a few cases of ICRC's access to prisoners in these territories.

The Ukrainian side continues to demand urgent full and unconditional access from the Russian side for representatives of the ICRC Mission and the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine to all so-called "places of deprivation of liberty", without exception, in the temporarily Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

For its part, the Ukrainian side, following the Law of Ukraine "On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine "On Pretrial Detention" (entered into force on December 22, 2019), guarantees international organizations, including the ICRC, complete and unconditional access to detained persons and taken in custody in the entire Government-controlled territory of Ukraine.