January 30 – February 6: Occupation forces evicted Ukrainian civilians from their homes to accommodate Russian soldiers and local collaborators. They continued to deport civilians and children from the occupied territories to Russia, and turned over more healthcare facilities to the military.
Russian forces concentrated on offensive actions against Ukrainian troops on the Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Novopavlivka fronts in Donetsk Oblast, and Kupiansk in Kharkiv Oblast.
Moscow moved additional assault groups, units, and military equipment to the east of Ukraine after President Vladimir Putin ordered his generals to capture the Donetsk and Luhansk regions by the end of March, Ukrainian intelligence said. Russian forces also stepped-up shelling in Kharkiv Oblast as they sought to stretch the front line and prevent the concentration of Ukrainian forces at any one point.
Residents in Kherson Oblast reported occupation troops moving into their apartments and houses, while in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, civilians have been forcibly evicted to accommodate collaborators. In Donetsk Oblast, Russian forces plan to hand over seized apartments and houses, which they refer to as “abandoned property,” to military personnel and local supporters.
The invaders continued to deport people from occupied areas, including 50 high school students from Luhansk Oblast, who were taken to the Russian Republic of Tatarstan to prepare for exams needed to attend Russian universities and professional colleges.
Russian forces are seeking to replenish their military losses through the mobilization of local civilians in Crimea. They also brought a reported 3,500 convicts from prisons in the occupied Zaporizhzhia and Kherson oblasts to the peninsula to join the Wagner mercenary group. Fifty inmates were recruited from a women’s penal colony in occupied Donetsk Oblast.
The occupiers continued their campaign to blur Ukrainian identity and influence children. In Crimean schools, they have opened branches of “Movement of the First,” a Kremlin-sponsored Russian youth organization. In Kherson Oblast, occupying forces want to open cadet classes named after an 18th-century Russian general, while in the Luhansk region, parents are being forced to send their children to Cossack cadet corps from the age of six
Territorial Control of Southeastern Ukraine on February 8, 2023
The occupying forces continued covert mobilization on the peninsula. In Sevastopol, Russian military commissariats have been assigned the task of replenishing Russia’s losses by calling up local people. “All civilian employees are required to fill out forms where they must indicate information about their military rank in reserve and the availability of a driver’s license,” the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported on Facebook.
Russian forces continued taking convicts to Crimea. The occupiers took 3,500 people from prisons in the occupied territories of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson oblasts against their will and moved them to the peninsula, according to Ukraine’s Special Operation Forces’ National Resistance Center website. Mercenaries from the Wagner group then sought to recruit the convicts to join their organization. The majority refused and were being kept in “unbearable” conditions, the resistance said.
Thirty-three people were detained near the court building in Simferopol after they had gone to support Crimean Tatars arrested on charges of “terrorism” and “connections with Ukraine,” Radio Liberty’s Crimea Realities reported. Human rights defender Lutfiie Zudiieva said the practice of mass detentions near courts in Crimea has become systematic.
“When people come to the courthouse and try to support their loved ones, they are simply herded onto buses in such an aggressive manner, and then taken to district offices and marinated until the morning, when fines and administrative arrests are imposed,” Zudiieva told the radio station. “No one can put up with this. This causes an even greater desire to fight and oppose it.”
The occupation authorities are “buying” the loyalty of Kherson residents forced to move to Crimea by giving them cash and access to housing. They have opened assistance centers and introduced preliminary registration for housing certificates, along with payments of 100,000 rubles ($1,415) for residents from Kherson Oblast. A housing certificate allows a person to buy a property at the expense of the state and can only be accessed by those with Russian passports with registration in the city of Kherson or Kherson Oblast. In a move to build links between occupied territories, the Russian authorities in Crimea launched a bus service between the peninsula and the occupied Kherson region, the “head” of annexed Crimea said on his Telegram channel.
Legislators from the parliament of occupied Crimea approved the confiscation of Ukrainian-owned facilities and factories along with the property of 12 Ukrainian banks. About 500 properties belonging to various enterprises are on the list and include tourist and sports infrastructure. The seizures will be used to support people from Crimea who fought in the “special military operation” in Ukraine “by granting ownership free of charge of land owned by the Republic of Crimea,” the occupation parliament said in a statement.
Russian media outlet Verstka reported that Russian authorities took more than 14 orphans under the age of five from Kherson to “Elochka,” a Crimean orphanage. “According to the ‘Working program’ of the orphanage for 2021-2025, the institution must educate children in ‘higher moral feelings,’ including ‘patriotism and citizenship,’ and also form the idea that ‘Crimea is in the south of Russia’ and the ‘realization of oneself as a citizen of multinational Russia,’” Verstka reported. Such an action would be a violation of the Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer of children from the zone of hostilities to the territory of the aggressor state or those under its occupation.
In Crimean schools, Russia continued to undermine Ukrainian identity and use propaganda to steer children’s opinions. The ceremonial opening of branches of the state-backed Russian youth organization “Movement of the First,” which is modeled on the Soviet-era Young Pioneers, took place in several schools on the peninsula. The mission of the organization is “educating the patriotic spirit of youth,” with a motto, “To be with Russia, to be human, to be together, to be on the move, to be the first.”