Biden Administration 'Startled' by Alleged Russian Hit Lists

Sources: Russia has lists to kill or arrest Ukrainian political foes, others after an invasion
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 21, 2022 9:06 AM CST
US: Russia Has Kill Lists if It Invades Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen in Moscow on Monday, talking via videoconference with members of the Russian Paralympic Committee team before the Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing.   (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

(Newser) – Whether President Biden will end up meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin over Ukraine tensions remains to be seen, but one thing they might want to talk about are lists allegedly held by Russia that detail Ukrainians it wants to detain or assassinate if Russia invades Ukraine. Foreign Policy first reported Friday on the supposed lists, which multiple sources familiar with US intel say include names of Ukrainian political opponents, anti-corruption activists, and Russian and Belarusian dissidents banished abroad that Russia would want to arrest or kill. "As we've seen in the past, we expect Russia will try to force cooperation through intimidation and repression," a US official tells the publication.

Over the weekend, the US sent a letter to the United Nations' high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, notifying the UN it has "credible information that indicates Russian forces are creating lists of identified Ukrainians to be killed or sent to camps following a military occupation," including vulnerable populations such as religious and ethnic minorities and members of the LGBTQ community, reports the Washington Post. The letter sent Sunday, penned by Bathsheba Crocker, the US ambassador to the UN, adds that the US also has dependable information "that Russian forces will likely use lethal measures to disperse peaceful protests or otherwise counter peaceful exercises of perceived resistance from civilian populations."

Foreign Policy notes the Biden administration appears "startled" at how detailed and formal the lists seem to be, and that Russian intelligence agencies are apparently playing a part in building these hit lists. Per the New York Times, the letter notes that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken informed the UN Security Council on Thursday of the concerns about the alleged lists. Blinken is set to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday, as long as no invasion takes place. On Monday, Kremlin press chief Dmitry Peskov called reports of any list like those described as "absolute fiction," adding, "There is no such list. It's a fake." (Read more Russia-Ukraine conflict stories.)

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