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U.N. probes charges that Ukrainians are forcibly being deported to Russia

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Kyiv today announcing more aid and lending more diplomatic support for Ukraine six months into this war. His visit comes as the country tries to retake territory from Russia amid concerns for the safety of a nuclear power plant controlled by Russian forces. NPR's Michele Kelemen joins us now to talk through all this. Hey, Michele.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Hi there.

MARTIN: So Secretary Blinken is there in the Ukrainian capital with promises of new aid. What more can you tell us about this package?

KELEMEN: Well, it's a $675 million worth of HIMARS and Howitzers, you know, the kind of equipment that Ukraine has been using in this counteroffensive it's taking part in in the south of the country now. He's also telling Ukrainians about plans to ask Congress for another $2 billion in longer term assistance. That's not just for Ukraine, but also for 18 other countries in the region at risk of Russian aggression, the State Department says.

MARTIN: I mean, they think long and hard before sending the secretary of state out into the world, let alone to Ukraine. What's with the timing of this?

KELEMEN: Yeah. So diplomats are gearing up for the U.N. General Assembly later this month. And Blinken's aides say that's one reason for going now, really to highlight how Russia is violating the U.N. charter with this war in Ukraine, wreaking havoc on global food and energy costs. He's also highlighting the human toll to bring this story home for people. The secretary visited wounded children in a hospital today. And he was there with a local hero of sorts, a rather famous mine-sniffing dog.

MARTIN: So I want to pivot now and ask about a U.N. Security Council meeting that was held yesterday about Ukraine. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield, accused Russia of war crimes at this meeting. And this has to do with forced deportations. Can you tell us about that?

KELEMEN: Yeah. So she called the meeting to focus on these - what's known as filtration camps. Thomas-Greenfield says the U.S. has evidence that the Kremlin are - the Kremlin's overseeing this campaign to forcibly deport Ukrainians that oppose Russia's occupation of parts of Ukraine. And she had a pretty serious warning to the security council about this. Take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Filtered. The word does not begin to convey the horror and the depravity of these premeditated policies.

KELEMEN: She talked about, you know, family separation and all kinds of abuses that are happening in this. And she said that this is all to do with Russia laying the groundwork to annex parts of Ukraine. The U.S. has been warning of that for a long time right now. But she really wanted the Security Council to stay focused on this.

MARTIN: How did Russia's ambassador to the U.N. respond to this?

KELEMEN: Well, deny and deflect are possibly - you know, probably the best words to describe Russia's response. Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya has become quite practiced at that. He says Ukrainians who go to Russia go through registration, not filtration. And he said the West is really the threat to international peace and security these days because Western nations are sending arms shipments to Ukraine. So again, deflect and deny.

MARTIN: NPR national - NPR diplomatic correspondent, rather, Michele Kelemen. Thank you.

KELEMEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.