Geofrey RobertApr 11, 2022

Photo: A war crimes prosecutor documents evidence in Ukraine.

Russia withdrew from Kyiv and other cities as a strategic move to concentrate its invasion in the eastern part of the country even as President Zelenskyy asked President Biden for more weapons. According to the Ukrainian president, the nation's fate lies in the ability to match up the surge of Russian weaponry in the south and east of Ukraine[1].  Britain's Defense Ministry reported that Russia recalled veterans to compensate the soldiers killed in the invasion.

In areas previously occupied by Russian troops, mounting evidence of horrific brutality continues to be unearthed.  On 11th April, the Ukraine Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the creation of an online archive to document Russian war crimes to show the world the truth and Russians that must be held accountable. The archive of war crimes seeks to guarantee that Russians cannot hide the truth. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba noted that thousands of Ukrainians had been killed, tortured, and shot by Russian soldiers. Some of the civilians were executed with hands tied behind the backs on the streets of Bucha city.

Ukraine War Crimes Archive

The archive documents various war crimes committed by the Russian army in Ukraine since the full-scale invasion on Feb 24. Crimes are divided into seven categories; Murder of civilians, attacks on civilians, wanton destruction of property, torture, and hostages, unlawful deportation, attacks against culture and religion, and rape. Many decades ago, the international community decided to stop large-scale deaths of civilians during wars and armed conflicts. The rules of war were created, which forbade the killing of civilians, the infliction of torture and harm on prisoners, and the launching of lethal weapons in unprotected settlements.

Despite Russia being part of the rules of war set out in the international treaties such as the Rome Statute, Geneva conventions, and international laws and agreements, it continues its invansion. The rules of war and other conventions are unscrupulously and cynically violated by thousands of Russian soldiers being sent to Ukraine by President Putin to commit mass murder and engage in wanton destruction[2]. The crimes include excessive brutality in wartime, the military deliberately attacking peaceful civilians, attacks on civilian infrastructure, targeting humanitarian missions, and children and women.

War Crimes

Experts have stated that the next phase of the battle will be a full-scale offensive on the eastern and south frontiers.  Captain-General Aleksandr Dvornikov, often referred to as the Butcher of Syria, who helped president Bashar al-Assad crush his enemies in the war has been appointed as central commander of the Russian invasion in prison. Jake Sullivan, a national security advisor in Washington, has warned that Dvornikov promotion may lead to more atrocities, including resuming brutality against civilians theatres as he did in Syria[3]. There are fears that the general will be another author of crimes and brutality against Ukrainian civilians, and the United States is determined to do what it can to support Ukrainians as they resist the invasion.

Military Lawyer Glenn Kolomeitz says Russia can and will be held accountable for committing war crimes[4]. There is solid evidence of either intentional or indiscriminate attacks and these excessive deaths. The Russian invasion of Ukraine tends to constitute a crime of aggression under international law. The primary charge against Nazi Germany against senior leaders at the Nuremberg trials and Japan at the Tokyo war crimes trials was ‘'crimes against the peace'' meaning the initiation of a war of aggression.  The trials resulted in three dozen perpetrators' convictions for aggression, and the 1945 United States Charter prohibits the aggressive war's illegality in international law.

On 4th April 2022, President Joe Biden called for the Russian Vladimir Putin to stand trial for war crimes since Russia is a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Stephen Rapp, a former U.S. Ambassador-at-large for the war crimes issues from 2009 to 2015, noted that there is no doubt that Russian committed war crimes in its invasion of Ukraine. Rapp noted that failure to hold Russian leaders and the military accountable would be sending a dangerous message to other militaries and world leaders[5]. White House deputy national security advisor Jon Finer stated that the U.S is looking at different tribunals and mechanisms established in similar conflicts in the past, and some models in the United States (U.S) and allies are exploring the kind of tribunals to support.

International Criminal Court (ICC), which has jurisdiction over Ukraine, recently initiated a major investigation after forty countries formally referred the situation to a prosecutor. UN Human Rights Council is in the process of setting up an investigative commission with several countries, the European Union, and non-governmental organizations launching separate investigations. The efforts are complemented by the media and serve as real-time documentation, thus making it difficult for Russian leaders to plead ignorance of the atrocity crimes in Ukraine. (https://war.ukraine.ua/russia-war-crimes/) archive reminds Russia that it bears the most serious responsibility for the evil they committed, noting that ‘'We will never forget nor forgive. Nor will the world''. True, the world should not forgive nor forget the war crimes committed by Russia.

United States is not the party to the ICC, but it can play a role like the recent assertion by the President that Putin is a war criminal.  Washington can orchestrate the collection and delivery of information from various sources, including satellite data, refugees, and declassified intelligence intercepts. Despite the historical opposition to the ICC by the Republican party, its leading senators introduced a resolution supporting a court's investigative efforts. The United States can use its intelligence capability to monitor the movement of Russian troops, which can offer evidence of war crimes for prosecutors and investigators.

The investigations should be followed by indictments against Russian leaders and military leaders, including President Putin[6]. Though enforcing the arrest warrants, economic sanctions will primarily leverage the withdrawal of Russian forces and restore Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty.  Sanctions should be imposed on leaders and allied countries to force the surrender of indicted fugitives. Such a tactic has worked in surrendering indicted leaders such as Slobodan Milosevic to a tribunal of the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

Ukraine stated that it found over 1,200 bodies in the Kyiv region and has compiled a list of 500 Russian war criminals. Ukraine prosecutor Iryna Venediktova Sunday described Russian President Vladimir Putin as the war criminal of the 21st century as they shared figures of bodies recovered from the Kyiv region.  War crimes investigation should be expedited and indictments issued against Russian military leaders to hold them accountable for the crimes committed in Ukraine.

In the words of Ukrainians, Russia is responsible, and we should not forget nor forgive.


Geofrey Robert is an experienced freelance researcher and writer with over five years of experience. He holds a Bachelor of law. His research interests are International law, Peace & Security, Conflict, humanitarian issues, and climate change. He worked as a peace and security news writer for Peacehumanity.org. and also contributed to their periodic PEACE MONITOR MAGAZINE as a peace researcher and writer focusing on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

[1] https://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/news/world/russia-ukraine-war-ukrainian-defenders-dig-in-as-russia-boosts-firepower/

[2] https://war.ukraine.ua/russia-war-crimes/

[3] https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/18097128/ukraine-russia-war-latest-putin-kyiv-ww3/

[4] https://www.news.com.au/world/russia-can-and-will-be-held-accountable-for-war-crimes/video/883d4d79c62ebba8a782d54cd254209e

[5] https://www.npr.org/2022/04/05/1090992292/the-u-s-insists-that-russia-should-be-held-accountable-for-war-crimes

[6] https://www.pbs.org/newshour/world/could-russia-be-held-accountable-for-war-crimes-in-ukraine

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