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UN Commission Reveals Extent of Russian Atrocities and War Crimes in Ukraine

The United Nations' Independent Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine has found that Russian forces have committed a wide range of violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law while invading Ukraine, many of which constitute war crimes.[0] These include wilful killings, torture, rape, forced transfers and the deportation of children, as well as indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, and a small number of violations committed by Ukrainian armed forces.[1]

The UN-backed report revealed that Russian forces have carried out attacks with explosive weapons in populated areas with an apparent disregard for civilian harm and suffering, failing to take the required precautions.[2] This has been one of the main causes of civilian casualties.[3] In addition, the Commission established a pattern of widespread unlawful confinement in areas controlled by Russian armed forces, targeting various categories of people.[1]

The Commission also revealed that the waves of attacks by Russian armed forces on Ukraine’s energy-related infrastructure from October 2022 may amount to crimes against humanity.[1] Energy-related infrastructure disruptions caused entire regions and millions of people to lose electricity and heating for extended periods of time, especially during extreme cold.[3]

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is expected to open two war crimes cases against Russia related to the abduction of Ukrainian children and Russia’s deliberate attacks on Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure.[4] Sources told the New York Times that the court would shortly ask for several arrests to be made and that Russian president Vladimir Putin could be one of those indicted.[5]

The Commission concluded that survivors of the war want justice for the atrocities committed against them. One man whose father was executed by Russian armed forces in the Kharkiv region told investigators: “They punished innocent people; now those who are guilty, if they are still alive, need to be punished to the fullest extent.”[6]

While the ICC investigation continues, the U.S. Department of Defense has been blocking the White House from sharing evidence of Russian atrocities with the court, raising fears that it could set a precedent for future prosecution of U.S. service members.[7] However, with or without U.S. cooperation, the ICC investigation continues, as the court has joined a Joint Investigative Team with Lithuania, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia, Romania, and Ukraine to support possible trials inside or outside Ukraine.[7]

0. “Russia has committed ‘wide range' of war crimes in Ukraine, UN inquiry” The Jerusalem Post, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.jpost.com/breaking-news/article-734541

1. “UN: Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine” Axios, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.axios.com/2023/03/16/russia-war-crimes-ukraine-un-report

2. “U.N. report says Russian forces have violated international, humanitarian law in Ukraine” UPI News, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2023/03/16/ukraine-un-report-russia-violated-international-law/4601678983012/

3. “War crimes, indiscriminate attacks on infrastructure, systematic and widespread torture show disregard for civilians …” OHCHR, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2023/03/war-crimes-indiscriminate-attacks-infrastructure-systematic-and-widespread

4. “Russia to face two war crimes charges at the ICC – NYT” Euromaidan Press, 13 Mar. 2023, https://euromaidanpress.com/2023/03/13/russia-to-face-two-war-crimes-charges-at-the-icc-nyt/

5. “ICC in The Hague to ‘issue Ukraine war crimes arrest warrants' – DutchNews.nl” DutchNews.nl, 15 Mar. 2023, https://www.dutchnews.nl/news/2023/03/icc-in-the-hague-to-issue-ukraine-war-crimes-arrest-warrants/

6. “A Nightmarish New Report Has Detailed Russia’s War Crimes In Ukraine” BuzzFeed News, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/davidmack/russia-war-crimes-ukraine-un-report-human-rights

7. “Prosecuting Russian war crimes in Ukraine is awkward for the U.S” Grid, 13 Mar. 2023, https://www.grid.news/story/global/2023/03/13/why-prosecuting-russian-war-crimes-in-ukraine-may-be-awkward-for-the-us

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