US claims Russia drawing up Ukraine kill lists after invasion

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US claims Russia drawing up Ukraine kill lists after invasion

Russia is compiling lists of Ukrainians “to be killed or sent to camps” following an invasion, according to an alarming letter by the US ambassador to the United Nations’ European Office.

The undated letter from Bathsheba Nell Crocker to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet cites “credible information” that the lists are being drawn up and suggests those targeted would include “Russian and Belarusian dissidents in exile in Ukraine, journalists and anti-corruption activists, and vulnerable populations such as religious and ethnic minorities and LGBTQI+ persons.”

The letter was initially obtained by the Washington Post, which published it late Sunday. It does not go into details about what intelligence supports Crocker’s claims.

Crocker cites past Russian human rights abuses in her letter to Bachelet, including “targeted killings, kidnappings/forced disappearances, unjust detentions, and the use of torture.”

 Michelle Bachelet.
Bathsheba Nell Crocker sent the letter to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.
Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images
Russian marines take their position during the Union Courage-2022 Russia-Belarus military drills.
Bathsheba Nell Crocker warned that Moscow’s forces would likely use “lethal measures” to crush protests in Ukraine.
Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP
The letter expresses concern over "widespread human suffering" if Russia invades Ukraine.
The letter expresses concern over “widespread human suffering” if Russia invades Ukraine.
Smoke and flame rise over a field.
US officials led by President Biden have said they believe Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to invade Ukraine.
Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP

The ambassador also warned that Moscow’s forces would likely use “lethal measures” to crush protests and other non-violent demonstrations by Ukrainians.

Crocker further accused the Kremlin of sanctioning “continuing human rights abuses” in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, and tells Bachelet that her letter should serve “as an early warning that a further Russian invasion of Ukraine may create a human rights catastrophe.”

Bathsheba Crocker.
Bathsheba Nell Crocker cites “credible information” that the hit lists are being drawn up.
White House Department of State

In recent days, US officials led by President Biden have said they believe Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to invade Ukraine, citing intelligence that Russian commanders have received orders to begin planning attacks.​ However, Western diplomats have publicly held out hope of a peaceful resolution to the standoff.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov shrugged off the allegations in Crocker’s letter.​

“Do you realize that this is an absolute canard, a lie? It is absolute fiction. There is no such list. It’s a fake,” Peskov​ told reporters on Monday.​

Russia has assembled as many as 190,000 troops and heavy equipment along its border with Ukraine, and has extended joint military drills with Belarus, which borders Ukraine to the north. 

Biden on Sunday agreed “in principle” to a potential summit with Putin if an invasion hasn’t happened, but the Russian government on Monday ​threw cold water on the plan.

​“It’s premature to talk about any specific plans for organizing any kind of summits,” Peskov said. 

The possible meeting would have followed scheduled Thursday talks between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.

At this point, Peskov added, talks should remain at that level.

“If necessary, of course, the Russian and American presidents can decide to hold a telephone call or connect via other methods,” he said. “A meeting is possible if the heads of state consider it appropriate.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
“It is absolute fiction. There is no such list. It’s a fake,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said about the alleged kill list.
Sputnik/Sergey Guneev/Kremlin via REUTERS
Damaged car in Tamarchuk village.
A damaged car is the result of shelling in the Russian militant-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine.
Stanislav Kozliuk/EPA
Ukraine military drills.
Children and civilians participate in tactical defense training in Ukraine.
Gaelle Girbes/Getty Images

In a statement Sunday evening, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the meeting between the leaders presented a diplomatic opening.

“We are always ready for diplomacy. We are also ready to impose swift and severe consequences should Russia instead choose war,” she said.​

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