Civilians from the cities of Kupyansk and Balakleya walk past a line of cars queuing to enter Russia amid Ukraine’s counter-offensive attempt in Kharkov region. © Sputnik / Viktor Antonyuk
State police say a “reckoning” is coming for pro-Russian residents of “de-occupied” town
Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) announced on Friday that it had begun conducting a “filtration” of civilians in Balakleya, the town in Kharkov Region reportedly taken by forces of the Kiev government. SBI agents will be checking for those who “may pose a threat to national security,” the agency said.
“The purpose of the measures is to prevent the subversive activities of the Russians and their allies,” the SBI said on social media, adding it would “carefully process information about persons who cooperated with aggressors” and hold “collaborators and traitors strictly accountable.”
“The time of reckoning has come,” the SBI concluded.
Ukraine had charged the town’s mayor with treason in April, accusing him of collaborating with Russian troops and helping them distribute humanitarian aid.
Balakleya is about 90 kilometers (55 miles) southeast of Kharkov, in the Izyum district. The town had around 25,000 residents before the conflict in Ukraine escalated in February. Russian troops took control of it at the end of March, but Kiev claims to have retaken it this week. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky shared a video of a Ukrainian flag flying over the town’s administration on Thursday evening.
Kiev’s announcement of “filtration” comes just days after the US and its allies condemned Russia over its own alleged use of the practice. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians were “forcibly transferred” to Russia through a “vast and punitive” network of detention camps, the US State Department claimed on Wednesday. These claims were then echoed at the UN Security Council by US and Albanian diplomats.
Russia was not conducting “filtration,” Moscow’s envoy to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, replied, but documenting and registering the displaced persons from the Donetsk and Lugansk republics, as well as Ukrainians seeking refuge in territories under Russian control.
“As far as we can tell, Poland and other EU countries are applying the same procedures to Ukrainian refugees, but I’ll let them explain themselves,” he told the Security Council, accusing the Western countries of projection. Nebenzia also pointed out the long stream of Ukrainians voluntarily crossing into Russian-held territory at a checkpoint in Zaporozhye.