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Russia Accused of War CRIMES and EXECUTING Civilians

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On March 17, 2023, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation.

The ICC accused both of committing the war crime of “unlawful deportation of population (children)” and claimed there are reasonable grounds to believe each bears individual criminal responsibility. The aforementioned crimes were allegedly committed in Ukrainian-occupied territory from around February 24, 2022.

Considering Russia doesn’t recognize the ICC, it is far-fetched to think we will see Putin or Lvova-Belova in handcuffs. Yet, the court believes that the “public awareness of the warrants may contribute to the prevention of the further commission of crimes.”

BUCHA, Ukraine — After Russian troops pulled out of the city of Bucha, images have emerged showing the streets littered with dead bodies.

Ukrainian authorities claim that some civilians had their hands tied behind their backs and were shot in the back of the head. Ukrainian troops also reported that some of the bodies showed signs of torture.

Bucha’s mayor said more than 300 civilians had been killed without provocation. Reuters reported that a mass grave had been found on the grounds of a nearby church.

Russia has denied its troops killed civilians saying the photos released by the Ukrainian government were provoking the situation.

As the bodies of Russian soldiers return home, many Russians have expressed their outrage at being accused of war crimes. The BBC reported that one Russian interviewee said, “I don’t believe these fakes…I will never believe them.”

The international community has called for investigations into Russian war crimes.

Follow our full live coverage and analysis from the past year …

Key Events:

24 March 2023 | 11:00 am UTC — South Africa takes legal advice on arresting Putin when he attends the BRICS summit in August.

20 March 2023 | 12:30 pm UTC — Russia’s top investigative body opens a case against the International Criminal Court, saying they have knowingly accused an innocent person of a crime.

17 March 2023 | 03:00 pm UTC — The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation. The ICC accused both of committing the war crime of “unlawful deportation of population (children).”

08 December 2022 | 03:30 pm UTC — Putin vows to continue attacks on Ukraine’s power grid, saying they are a justified response to “an act of genocide” committed by Ukraine when they blocked the water supply to Donetsk.

10 October 2022 | 02:30 pm UTC — After the attack on the Russia-Crimea bridge, Moscow initiates strikes against Ukraine’s power grid, leaving millions without electricity.

04 October 2022 | 04:00 am UTC — Dead bodies of Ukrainian civilians continue to be found in the recaptured Kharkiv region. Most recently, Human Rights Watch documented three bodies found in a forest showing possible signs of torture.

15 August 2022 | 12:00 am UTC — The United Nations published the number of civilian casualties reported in Ukraine since the start of the war. The numbers reported were 5,514 killed and 7,698 injured.

04 August 2022 | 10:00 pm UTC — Amnesty International has slammed Ukrainian forces for endangering its citizens by operating military systems in residential areas. The report said, “such tactics violate international humanitarian law” by turning civilians into military targets. However, they did note it did not justify Russia’s attacks.

08 June 2022 | 3:55 am UTC — Ukraine launched the “Book of Executioners” to document war crimes committed by Russian soldiers. President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the book to hold Russian troops accountable and get justice for the Ukrainian victims of the invasion. In addition, the book will be used to catalog evidence of war crimes.

31 May 2022 | 4:51 pm UTC — A Ukrainian court jails two captured Russian soldiers for 11 and a half years for war crimes relating to the shelling of a town in eastern Ukraine.

17 May 2022 | 12:14 pm UTC — Ukrainian authorities identify a young Russian soldier, 21, who allegedly gang-raped a young girl with three others after locking her family in a basement.

06 May 2022 | 11:43 am UTC — Amnesty International steps in with a report documenting several war crimes committed by Putin’s soldiers. One case detailed a man killed in his kitchen by Russian soldiers as his wife and children hid in the basement.

29 April 2022 | 10:07 am UTC — UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss announces that the United Kingdom has dispatched war crimes experts to Ukraine to help with investigations.

28 April 2022 | 3:19 pm UTC — Ukraine has released pictures of ten Russian soldiers wanted for war crimes in Bucha. The Ukrainian government described them as the “despicable ten.” They are allegedly part of the 64th brigade honored by Vladimir Putin.

22 April 2022 | 1:30 pm UTC — According to Ukrainian officials, satellite images of an area near Mariupol appear to show more mass graves. Mariupol city council estimates the graves could be hiding up to 9,000 civilian bodies. However, the satellite images have not been verified as civilian gravesites.

18 April 2022 | 1:20 am UTC — Israel has condemned Russia’s actions, referring to them as “war crimes.” Russia responded by saying it “was a poor attempt at exploiting the situation in Ukraine to divert international attention” from the Israel-Palestinian conflict and has summoned the Israel ambassador to Russia to clarify Israeli positions.

13 April 2022 | 7:00 pm UTC — The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights has released a preliminary report that suggests Russia has committed war crimes in Ukraine. The report stated that “It is not conceivable that so many civilians would have been killed” if Russia had respected human rights.

11 April 2022 | 4:00 pm UTC — France sends forensic experts to Ukraine to gather evidence of alleged Russian war crimes. The special team of French police officials includes two forensic doctors.

08 April 2022 | 7:30 am UTC — Russia has been accused of more war crimes after a missile hit a Ukrainian train station in Kramatorsk, killing at least 50 people. The station was a key location for the evacuation of women and children. Russia categorically denies targeting civilians.

04 April 2022 | 3:49 pm UTC — Ukraine starts a war crimes investigation into the execution of civilians. Ukraine authorities say the bodies of 410 civilians have been found around Kyiv. Russia says the photos and videos are “a staged performance.”

03 April 2022 | 6:00 am UTC — Human Rights Watch reported on “apparent war crimes in Russia-controlled areas”, which focussed on the city of Bucha. The report claimed Russian soldiers had executed Ukrainian civilians.

02 April 2022 | 7:08 am UTC — Russian troops retreat from areas around Kyiv as Ukrainian forces declare “liberation.” President Zelensky claims Russians are booby-trapping homes as they leave.

Key Facts:

  • The attacks on Ukraine’s energy grid have been condemned by many leaders as war crimes, although international law allows such attacks if the target’s destruction “offers a definite military advantage.”
  • Russian troops are pulling back from the Kyiv region to focus on operations in the east and south of Ukraine.
  • Images showed streets littered with burnt-out Russian tanks and dead bodies.
  • Sky News has allegedly verified two videos showing bodies on the streets of Bucha.
  • On the other side, footage has circulated of Ukrainian soldiers abusing Russian prisoners of war, suggesting a violation of the Geneva Convention.
  • Russia denies all war crimes, saying Ukrainian nationalist fighters are killing civilians. Russia also claims many photos and videos circulating are fake and use actors.
  • Vladimir Putin has awarded honors to the army brigade present at Bucha for “mass heroism and bravery, steadfastness and fortitude.” However, Ukraine has labeled the same brigade as “war criminals.”
  • As of August, 13,212 civilian casualties have been reported in Ukraine: 5,514 killed and 7,698 injured. Of the civilians killed, there were 1,451 women and 356 children, according to the United Nations.

Pictures from Ukraine

LiveLive image feed

Images from Ukraine showing the aftermath of the invasion and alleged Russia war crimes.
Source: https://i.dailymail.co.uk/1s/2021/04/09/12/41456780-9452479-Biden_seen_in_a_photo_which_was_found_on_his_laptop_joked_on_Thu-a-10_1617967582310.jpg

Critical findings

Amnesty International reports that after an extensive investigation, they have found evidence that Russian forces repeatedly used banned cluster munitions and scatterable mines to attack the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

Russia is not a party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but any indiscriminate attack that injures or kills civilians is classed as a war crime. A cluster munition is an explosive weapon that scatters smaller explosive bomblets over a large area, indiscriminately killing soldiers and civilians. Other cluster munitions can scatter land mines over a wide area, posing a risk to civilians long after the conflict.

On the other side, Amnesty found that Ukrainian forces had broken humanitarian law by positioning artillery near civilian buildings, which attracted Russian fire. However, Amnesty noted that this “in no way justifies the relentless indiscriminate shelling of the city by Russian forces.”

Further investigations revealed more violations by Ukrainian forces. A report released on 4 August 2022 said Ukraine was operating weapons in residential areas which turned civilians into military targets. The report caused some outrage as the head of Amnesty International’s Ukraine arm, Oksana Pokalchuk, quit the organization saying the report was used as “Russian propaganda.”

A human rights lawyer in charge of gathering evidence in Ukraine claims that Russian troops have “tacit permission” to rape civilians as a weapon. They said that troops are not explicitly told to rape women and girls, but there is no disciplinary action if they do. Many women have shared testimony of being sexually assaulted by Russian soldiers.

The United Nations (UN) Human Rights chief claims there is now mounting evidence that Russia has committed war crimes in Ukraine. UN Human Rights officers documented the unlawful killing of around 50 civilians, some by summary execution, during their mission to Bucha on the 9th of April, 2022.

The United Nations published its civilian casualty update on 15 August 2022. From 24 February 2022, the following numbers have been reported in Ukraine:

  • 5,514 civilians killed.
  • 7,698 civilians injured.
  • 1,451 women killed.
  • 356 children killed.
  • 1,149 women injured.
  • 595 children injured.

What happens next?

It’s all well and good saying that war crimes have been committed, but will anyone see justice?

It’s highly unlikely we would ever see Putin or his generals stand trial for war crimes. Such crimes would usually be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC); however, Russia is not a signatory and doesn’t recognize the court. So, if the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Putin, it wouldn’t matter because Russia would never let any ICC officials into the country.

In fact, the United States doesn’t recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC. For example, during the Trump presidency, the ICC opened an investigation into war crimes allegedly committed by US personnel in Afghanistan. The US responded by imposing sanctions and refusing visas for ICC officials, completely stifling the investigation by preventing entry of any prosecutors. President Trump said in the executive order that the actions of the ICC “threaten to infringe upon the sovereignty of the United States” and that the ICC “must respect the decisions of the United States and other countries not to subject their personnel to the ICC’s jurisdiction.”

Consequently, it’s far-fetched to believe that we will ever see the prosecution of Putin or any of his inner circle. Of course, an arrest warrant could be executed if Putin traveled outside Russia to a country that recognized the ICC, but the Russian president would be foolish to take such a risk.

Realistically we will see the prosecution of low-level soldiers captured on the ground in Ukraine. The first of such war crime trials began in May, with the first Russian soldier sentenced to life in prison for shooting a 62-year-old Ukrainian civilian — we will see an increasing number of similar cases in the coming months from the Ukrainian government.

Equally, the Russian side will pursue its own prosecutions of what it deems war crimes. Moscow sent a clear message when two British fighters who voluntarily traveled to Ukraine were sentenced to death.

The investigations indicate that Russian soldiers have torn through Ukraine with a complete disregard for human life. Evidence shows that heinous war crimes have been committed against unarmed civilians, including women and children.

A small minority of captured soldiers may face justice, but those who return to Russia will face no consequences and instead be hailed as war heroes.

One thing is for sure:

Protected by the borders of Russia, its vast military, and nuclear arsenal, Putin and his generals won’t be losing any sleep over war crime investigations.

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