Territories are people

We stand with the people of Ukraine who are living under occupation. We support their freedom, and their right to defend this freedom from russian oppression.


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In 2014, russia invaded Ukraine and annexed part of a sovereign state. Then, on February 24, 2022, russia began its full-scale invasion and Ukraine knew peace no more.

Every so often members of the international community suggest that it’s Ukraine’s duty to surrender part of its territory to russia. “To avoid further death and suffering”, the rhetoric goes.

A message from campaign organizers

Every day, people write to us imploring: “Please, evacuate us”. “I have several days left to live.”. “We haven’t eaten in days”. “They came and took my father. They showed him how to “behave himself”, he is in critical condition”. “My child was killed before my eyes”.

Ukraine isn’t just territory Ukraine is its people.

Those who call for Ukraine to give its land to russia are unwittingly saying: “Let Ukrainians die”. Giving this territory to russia is a death sentence for the people living there. Bucha, Irpin, Izyum, Kupiansk, Balakliia, Lyman and other freed localities are living proof of this. In the occupied parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and in the annexed Crimea, russia has been kidnapping, torturing and killing people for years. That’s what the so-called “russian peace” actually means.

Speak up! We cannot let people fall into the hands of those who wish for their destruction.

Here are just a few of the many fundamental rights that are being violated by russian occupiers

  • From the earliest days of the occupation, russia’s armed forces have been deliberately profiling civic-minded people and their families. In Kherson, Mariupol, Izyum and other cities, the russian military formed lists with the names and faces of activists, as well as anyone else who expressed support for the Ukrainian government in any way. Even civilian volunteers and animal activists were targeted. They were kidnapped and tortured, some were killed. In occupation, showing any kind of support for Ukrainian authorities can lead to reprisals and abuse.
  • Occupied territories have no judicial system. Anyone accused of anything is sent to “the cellars”, the basements of industrial buildings (i.e. factories or printing houses). The conditions there are appalling. Prisoners are beaten, tortured and sexually assaulted. We know for a fact that severe beatings, torture with hunger and tasers, and hanging by the hands takes place in these facilities. Arrest can be precipitated by almost anything. It is known that individuals with military experience in Afghanistan refused to collaborate with occupiers and were publicly executed. We are also aware of cases of torture and execution of people who had even distant ties to Ukrainian government. Being the head of a village, or a sister, wife or loved one of the ATO ( the Anti-Terrorist Operation, Ukraine's resistance forces in Eastern Ukraine that appeared as a response to russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014) is enough. We’ve received hundreds of messages testifying to incidences of torture and kidnappings. There is no due process, the victims of these assaults are not officially charged with any crimes. People are taken from their homes and from public places. The prisoners’ locations are not disclosed to their families, nothing can be sent to the prisoners, the accusations are not disclosed and neither are the “sentences”, because none are awarded. Some prisoners are forcibly transported out of occupation to russia, where it is almost impossible to find them.
  • Import of humanitarian aid and medication from Ukraine-controlled territories into occupied territories is often blocked. Humanitarian aid sometimes comes from the russian side, but in inadequate amounts. Furthermore, it can only be received on camera and in exchange for one’s ID number. The produce is typically low-quality, grains and vegetables that have begun to rot. In some cases the aid, instead of being handed out, is sold in stores for profit. As for medical care, the state of affairs in occupation is also deplorable. Certain drugs, such as insulin (for diabetics) and thyroxine (for people with thyroid conditions) are in constant deficit. Hospitals are overcrowded, preference is given to wounded russian soldiers. For cancer patients, treatment is essentially impossible. Our evacuation spreadsheets have columns titled “evacuated”, “in progress”, “waiting” and “dead”. Among the people writing to us, many had lost loved ones in occupation. Because, for example, they had not been able to get insulin, and died.
  • Communications are jammed in occupied territories, so there’s barely any cell service. People aren’t able to contact their loved ones for months on end. The only way to get a signal is to find the most elevated spot within walking distance from your home. People have to climb trees, or go on rooftops. The Kremyanets hill in Izyum was targeted and shot at for that exact reason–because people would climb it to call their loved ones. Elderly people, people with disabilities, and limited mobility, end up completely cut off from the outside world. Their loved ones spend months not knowing whether they are ok. People often write in to us wanting to evacuate elderly relatives whom they’ve had no contact with since March or April. Meanwhile, where there is dependable service, the FSS (russia’s Federal Security Service) monitors every call. They also confiscate phones and read text and call histories. People are forced to keep their communications brief, and censor themselves in conversations with loved ones.
  • One popular leveraging tactic used by the occupiers is threatening to remove children from families and send them to russian foster families as punishment for “offenses”. Prior to the start of the school year, many families in occupation wanted to transfer their kids to online learning so as not to expose them to new russian-propaganda-filled school curriculums. Parents whose children were absent from school were threatened with their children being taken away. At school, under the occupation regime, children are forced to attend obligatory propagandist “clubs” along with regular classes. The objective of these “clubs” is to erase Ukrainian identity and enforce “russian world” values. We are also aware of cases of persecution, kidnapping and torture as punishment for speaking Ukrainian in public spaces. In occupied territories speaking Ukrainian is effectively forbidden.
  • Looting and robbery are the occupiers’ modus operandi. They commandeer any Ukrainian private belongings that catch their eye, even entire businesses and companies. We know of cases of forced transfer of ownership of at least one cafe and one agricultural business and many instances of confiscation of cars and other vehicles. People were forcibly evicted because the occupiers took a liking to their homes. Occupied territories are forced to start using the russian ruble, which can be purchased only at an extortionary rate, thereby devaluing Ukrainians’ savings. ATMs do not work, instead occupiers create their own “withdrawal” schemes, cashing out Ukrainian cards and taking a 20-30% commission for the “service”. If retirees’ pensions are charged to their cards they can not access the funds, because no cards are accepted. Meanwhile, russian pensions exist only on paper. The payouts aren’t regular and happen sporadically in different localities.
  • Many localities within occupied territories are closed both for entry and exit. Sometimes travel is limited within the city as well. For example, in Balakliia, before it was liberated, there were checkpoints that blocked people traveling from one neighborhood to another. To exit such areas people have to undergo a rigorous and humiliating inspection, the so-called “filtration”. Men are stripped naked to check for specific tattoos, phones and computers are combed through, people are psychologically pressured, and sometimes turned away. This doesn’t just happen during exit onto Ukraine-controlled territory, this is also the case when traveling between occupied territories. Effectively, filtration stops people from being able to freely travel between cities.
  • In cities that have been significantly damaged, occupiers use local inhabitants’ labor, forcing them to clear rubble and get rid of corpses in exchange for rations. There are multiple testimonies of this happening in Izyum under russian occupation. This practice is continuing in Mariupol and other cities. The punishment for breaking curfew, which simply means being outside any time after 8pm, is digging trenches (for men) and sweeping streets and washing occupiers’ uniforms (for women).
  • The effective goal of russian aggression is the “deukrainisation” of Ukraine: the destruction of sovereignty, erasure of national identity, the substitution of everything Ukrainian with everything russian. The Ukrainian language is de-facto forbidden in occupied territories, children in school are being told they are part of the “russian world”, advertisements and propaganda parrot the same message. Ukrainians are being forced to accept russian citizenship, are being forcibly deported to russia and are blocked from entering Ukraine-controlled territories. Children left without guardians are placed in russian families, where their cultural identities are erased and family ties broken. These acts are suggestive of genocide. The discrimination of religious and ethnic minorities is uniquely grievous. Advocacy groups in occupied Crimea have spent the last 8 years recording the disappearances, torture and extrajudicial sentencings of Crimean Tatars. The victims of russian special forces’ kidnappings disappear completely, are discovered dead or, if they are found alive, recount experiences of torture. Muslims have received prison sentences of over 10 years on account of their religion. Since the start of mobilization, Crimean Tatars have again been targeted–they have been served a disproportionate share of summons to enlistment, with, in some villages, 96% of the male population receiving a summons.

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