The Russian Orthodox Church plays a key role in the deportation and resettlement of Ukrainians in Russia, according to the Slidstvo.Info journalistic investigation project
According to journalists, the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations provides the clergy with information about the deportees, and they centrally resettle them in churches and monasteries.
From the very start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Ministry of Emergencies has been sending reports on the situation of the occupied territories and deported Ukrainians to the e-mail of the Synodal Department of ROC’s Charity wing. The Ministry of Emergencies informs churchmen daily about war developments in the occupied territories of Ukraine and the number of forcibly deported Ukrainians, transportation routes from Ukraine and arrival schedule to Russia.
Hackers with the Anonymous group and the DDoSecrets project provided investigators with intercepted correspondence of the ROC’s charity wing.
Correspondence was run through firstname.lastname@example.org – an email presumably created specifically for contacts between Russian clergy and security forces on the war in Ukraine. The first test letter to this address was received on February 21, 2022, just before Russia unleashed the invasion of Ukraine.
The author of the test letter is Polina Yufereva with the Russian Orthodox Church, coordinator of church assistance in emergency situations.
The latest letter from March 30, which is available to Slidstvo.Info, states that throughout the entire period of the deportation effort, almost 490,000 people were brought to Russia, including 100,000 children. Ukrainian Ombudsperson Liudmyla Denisova reported the same number of Ukrainians forcibly deported to Russia in her statements voiced earlier.
A resident of the village of Rubizhne, on the line of fire in Donbas, told Slidstvo.Info about her 5-day trip via Russia to Estonia and a series of interrogations she had to pass in the territory of the occupying power. The woman says speaking with the officials of the Russian Ministry of Emergencies was especially stressful as the latter were pouring dirt on Ukraine and its government.
The Ukrainians who haven’t managed to leave Russia after being forcibly deported (which is the vast majority) after “filtration” interviews, which were, in fact, interrogations, are subjected to the second round of filtration – a “spiritual” one. The security forces, who have long and fruitfully been cooperating with Russian clergymen, forward Ukrainians to monasteries and churches,” the newspaper writes.
From the correspondence provided by Anonymous and the DDoSecrets project, as well as from open sources, journalists learned that almost every region where Ukrainians are brought in has its own diocese that deals with “immigrants.” They bring them food and hold “spiritual conversations.”
According to the official website of the Moscow Patriarchate, 52 dioceses of the ROC “provide assistance” to deported Ukrainians.
Some dioceses have allocated their monasteries and shelters to host displaced Ukrainians. However, it is unclear how people get there, as the ROC does not publicly announce the offer to place people in church premises. They only report on completed settlement efforts.
In the ROC correspondence, journalists also found a letter about the need to install surveillance cameras in such shelters for displaced Ukrainians. The clergy explain this by security considerations.
At the same time, the ROC does not report on the ways the Ukrainians are brought to their church institutions, living conditions there, and especially CCTV cameras to monitor forcibly deported persons.