How to survive an FSB filtration
In Russia-occupied South Ukraine, public buses have emerged offering tickets from Russian occupied Ukraine to destinations in Free Ukraine. However those buses are organised and driven by the FSB. In reality they drive you to a filtration camp in a village where you spend up to two weeks getting filtrated.
This involves their taking all the data off your mobile phone and all your social media and try to find anything pro-Zelenskiy or pro-Ukrainian. And if they do, then they give you a beating with sticks and leave you in a cage with no food or water for two days, and then they let you carry on travelling. If they do not, them you get a certificate confirming you have been filtrated.
Here we provide some practical advice on how to survive a filtration experience, because Russian intentions appear to be eventually to filtrate the entire populations of the territories they occupy.
Don't think 'it won't happen to me'. It will. All the evidence suggests that the entire populations of the occupied territories will be filtrated at some point, one way or another, as part of a massive push to ensure that only the ideologically pure may continue to live in Southern Ukraine; all Kyiv sympathisers will be treated so harshly that they dare not return.
Filtration will be done to young and old, male and female, rich and poor. It may begin at some point on a house-to-house basis. We just don't yet know precisely how the FSB intends to ramp this exercise up. In that light, here is our advice.
If you can find one, bring a Russian or Soviet flag with you as an immediate display of your patriotism. You might also carry an image of Vladimir Putin, or of Stalin, in your luggage. (Lots of shops sell fridge magnets of this kind.)
Bring enough food and water for the wait, in case you have to wait two weeks to be filtrated.
Obviously speak only Russian throughout, and be direct and respectful to the FSB staff. Do not permit the injustice of what is happening to you to overcome you. Your goal is to get through the filtration process as quickly as possible, without being beaten, starved or otherwise punished; and nothing else.
Carry a healthy stack of Russian Rubles with you, exhibiting an intention to return to Russia-occupied territory.
Do not travel with a laptop. It is much harder to delete data from a laptop than from a mobile telephone. If you must, then the protocol is to delete the file, empty the trash, defragment the disk, turn the computer off (a complete power down), wait 20 minutes, then turn the computer on again and then defragment the hard drive again; then turn the computer off. But better not to travel with a laptop at all.
By contrast mobile phone storage is dynamic - the data is always being moved round all over the place - so you are safe enough if you delete a piece of data or file, turn the 'phone off, and then turn it on again. The same goes for tablets.
Start by closing all your social media accounts, permanently. Do not try to create new or fictitious ones. Just be prepared to stick to the line that for privacy reasons, you do not use social media.
Then delete all Apps relating to social media from your 'phone. Also delete the passwords for such sites from the 'phone's centralised storage system. But do not close your email accounts on your 'phone.
Instead erase all incriminating emails to and from, in drafts, Spam or anywhere else; and then empty the trash.
For instant messaging accounts, delete all incriminating conversations and also delete all incriminating 'phone numbers (e.g. those of politicians, political campaigners etc).
Cancel membership of all usergroups and similar that you are a member of, and delete their contents.
Delete all highly secure messaging Apps (e.g. Signal, Threema).
Selectively delete all potentially incriminating photos, which might just include photos of buildings in Free Ukrainian cities; Ukrainian flags; or people who look like they might be Ukrainian (or any other) soldiers.
Delete all western contexts from your 'phone (including all conversation patterns) and all documents not in Russian.
Be prepared to hand over your mobile phone unlock code willingly upon request.
Do not try presenting a fake dummy or second 'phone. It is obvious and you will immediately be selected for additional filtration.
In response to the question 'what do you think of Zelenskiy?', don't say 'I have no opinion of him.' Everyone in the world has an opinion of him; he is currently possibly the world's most famous man. Instead say 'it's such a shame that he didn't do what he should have done to keep us Russians and Ukrainians as one people'; 'my Grandfather died for the Soviet Union and now Zelenskiy is destroying everything we built up', 'I believe we ought to be part of a single Soviet Union again with everyone united and equal', and so on and so forth. Practise your lines. Everyone has something of the actor in them.
Discard all yellow and blue clothing and other items in your luggage.
Carry nothing that looks military.
Carry anything like internal passports, Soviet-era identity documents of photos of family, anything that might be interpreted as your having a sense of longing for the former Soviet Union.
Be prepared with details of family members (real or otherwise) not born in Ukraine. Slip them into the interrogation.
Say 'all I want to do now is collect my other family members and belongings in [free Ukrainian city], and then I will probably move to Russia, maybe Rostov or Crimea.' Have all ancillary details (addresses, methods of payment for new accommodation in Rostov / Crimea, or people who can accommodate you) at your fingertips.
If you have been firing weapons, wait for all bruises or other marks such as finger indentations to heal before being filtrated.
Be ready to explain exactly what you have been doing since 24 February, potentially in detail. Obviously you have been doing nothing except watching the carnage caused by the Ukrainians, on Russian state TV.
Do not admit to liking any western music or movies. All your favourites are from the Soviet era.
If you are or have been a public employee, assume the FSB have records of this and be ready for them to ask you about it. Have a good cover story if the public position was potentially compromising of your unquestioning loyalty to Russia.
Explain that you will be exchanging your Ukrainian passport for a Russian one just as soon as you get back to Russian-occupied territory; there were long queues which is why you have not done it yet.
If you have any military or pro-Ukrainian tattoos, you must have them removed before filtration. The quickest method is excision (cutting them out with a knife). You will need a doctor (preferably a surgeon) and some anaesthetic, antiseptic and bandages. If you are asked about the recent skin lesion under interrogation, say it was caused by a fragment of a shell. Be prepared to give the location where the fictitious injury occurred -i.e. somewhere that is being shelled.
Rape and sexual assault are less likely than in some circumstances, because FSB officials are relatively well disciplined. But they could be applied punitively to those who fail filtration tests.
Eat well before the interrogation, so that if you must starve for a couple of days you have a backup of food in you. You can survive without sleep, food or water for a couple of days - but not much more.
If you are selected for beating, then based on prior precedents of similar arrangements in other wars the attackers are likely to deal you body blows with sticks. (If they attack your head, you will die.) Try to prevent broken ribs, as they may go septic and cause you further complications. Carry strong broad spectrum antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin or metronidazole and start a course as soon as you are released, to mitigate the risks of septic internal wounds.
If you are beaten and starved, you may emerge with trauma. This should be treated promptly with a short course of psychiatric medicines, for example a mild atypical anti-psychotic tapered down over the course of a week. See a psychoatrist's advice as soon as possible.
Finally, it should be observed that this is all absurd. Beating people with sticks and starving them does not change peoples' political opinions. It is barbaric. It might be being used as a way of discouraging Kyiv loyalists from coming back. But filtrating the whole of South Ukraine is an impossible task. Even were the entire FSB engaged on the project, it would take years. It captures the imagination with parallels with Nazi treatment of concentration camp victims: a deep emotional scar in the West. It makes stronger intervention by the West against Russian interests all the more likely. The Russian filtration policy in South Ukraine is insanity.