A US official has warned that Russia may target prominent political opponents, anti-corruption activists, and “vulnerable populations” like LGBT+ people in the event of an invasion of Ukraine.
The official, who spoke to Foreign Policy anonymously, explained that Russia is “likely” to target anyone who opposes the country’s actions.
He said: “As we’ve seen in the past, we expect Russia will try to force cooperation through intimidation and repression.”
In past Russian operations, he said, this has manifested through “targeted killings, kidnappings/forced disappearances, detentions, and the use of torture”.
Among Russia’s list of likely targets, he said, are “Russian and Belarusian dissidents in exile in Ukraine, journalists and anti-corruption activists, and vulnerable populations such as religious and ethnic minorities and LGBTQI+ persons”.
The White House is said to be “startled by how formalised the lists are”.
Foreign Policy stated that the US has been tracking Russian intelligence agencies, who are allegedly “building up target and kill lists”.
Russia and Ukraine have been at war with each other since 2014, however tensions have increased after Russia deployed tens of thousands of troops to its border with Ukraine in late January.
Both the UK and the US have evacuated embassy staff from Kyiv, while Western allies are drawing up sanctions against Russia if the country does invade.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on NBC’s Today show that the US has intelligence that suggests “there will be an even greater form of brutality because this will not simply be some conventional war between two armies.
“It will be a war waged by Russia on the Ukrainian people to repress them, to crush them, to harm them. And that is what we laid out in detail for the UN.”
Ukrainian activists have stated that they will try their hardest to fight, amid fears that in the event of a Russian invasion, progress on LGBT+ rights could be stripped back.
“On this point we are united,” Emson said. “It doesn’t matter what your gender identity is, your sexual orientation – all together, we are stepping forward.”