Monday, May 16, 2022

Russian troops withdraw from Kiev and reveal atrocities

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As Russian forces withdraw from Kiev and the surrounding areas, evidence of serious atrocities has emerged, including summary executions of civilians, a case of repeated rape and other allegations made through photographs and eyewitness accounts and accounts of survivors.

Horrible photographs of civilians – some with their hands tied behind their backs – clearly show the brutality of the Russian occupation in the areas near Kiev, Chernihiv and Kharkov. Russia agreed to withdraw troops in northern Ukraine during ongoing negotiations to end the fighting, while more than 2,000 incidents of violations of the laws and customs of war have so far been reported to the office of Ukrainian Attorney General Iryna Venediktova. In particular, the visceral, stark photos emerging from the town of Bucha are a powerful indicator of how much damage Russia has done during the brief conflict.

Workers carry body bags in the city of Bucha, not far from the Ukrainian capital Kiev, on April 3, 2022.
Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images

Social media posts and news reports documenting the alleged war crimes first appeared on Saturday night, sparking renewed outrage among Western leaders, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “You can’t help but see these images as a punch to the stomach, and look, we said before the Russian aggression that we thought it was likely they were going to commit atrocities,” Blinken said. CNNs State of the Union on Sunday. “We can’t stop talking about this. We cannot normalize this. This is the reality of what happens every day.” Blinken said earlier that he believed that Russia was committing war crimes in Ukraine; the latest reports support that claim. Both Blinken and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg refused to classify Russia’s actions in Ukraine as genocide† “It’s an atrocity against civilians that we haven’t seen in Europe for decades,” Stoltenberg said. “And it’s horrific and it’s absolutely unacceptable that civilians are being targeted and killed.”

A Human Rights Watch The report released Sunday detailed specific allegations of the summary executions of seven men and the repeated rape of a woman during the first two weeks of the war. According to the report, which is based on interviews from survivors and eyewitnesses, as well as from civilians living in the formerly occupied territories, one summary execution took place in Bucha on March 4. According to a witness named in the report, Russian troops gathered five men. , pulled their shirts over their heads, forced them to kneel by the side of the road and shot one in the back of the head in front of a group of about 40 people who had been called to the village square. The Russian troops threatened to execute the others.

‘Do not worry. You are all normal – and this is dirty. We are here to cleanse you of the filth,” the Russian commander is said to have told the witnesses.

Western countries have promised a concrete response

Revelations of the alleged crimes in Bucha and elsewhere also renewed calls for Western countries to take action, both by pledging more military aid to Ukraine and by taking further economic punitive measures against Russia. Four countries – the three Baltic States and Poland – have pledged to withdraw completely from Russia’s fuel supplies and are pressuring other countries to do so; Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics tweeted sunday that his country “will continue to push for full EU energy sanctions against Russia and port closures” in the wake of the revelations. Latvia has joined the Baltic countries of Lithuania and Estonia, as well as Poland, in cutting off Russian fuel imports. Lithuania has permanently banned the import of Russian fuel, a major contributor to the economy. “If we can do it, the rest of Europe can do it,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said. tweeted saturday

German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht called on European Union member states to discuss a ban on Russian fuel imports. Deutsche Welle reported on Sunday† “Such crimes should not go unanswered,” she said, referring to reports of atrocities in Bucha. Germany is heavily dependent on Russian fuel imports, which slowed the Western response to Russian aggression prior to the invasion. Germany says it will repel of Russian natural gas, but claims it could do so by 2024 at the earliest.

Lambrecht’s call to further isolate Russia economically came when Germany refused Ukraine’s request for 100 German Marder infantry vehicles, saying the equipment is tied to NATO obligations and that Germany could not unilaterally hand the vehicles over to Ukraine. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told reporters on Sunday that Germany and its allies will “continue to make weapons available to Ukraine so it can defend itself against Russian invasion,” and promised tougher EU and Western sanctions against Russia, which will be lifted in the coming days. will be executed. †

A van with

A van with “children” written in Russian on the front of the vehicle is seen pocked with bullet holes in Bucha, Ukraine, on April 3, 2022.
Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

It is not exactly clear what a stricter EU sanctions package will contain, Bloomberg reports:† the block has reportedly been planning to bolster it currently in force, including full sanctions on Russian banks and the imposition of further sanctions on individuals.

Calls for more defensive weapons also mounted on Sunday as photos and reports of atrocities in Ukraine circulated. The US and NATO allies have supplied Ukraine with weapons systems such as: NLAWs — portable anti-tank guided missiles — and Stinger missiles, but have stopped supplying fighter jets or implementing a no-fly zone, which US President Joe Biden and other leaders say would risk open conflict between NATO and Russia .

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday reiterated the call for more advanced weapon systems from Western partners. “Unfortunately, Ukraine has not yet received enough modern Western anti-missile defense systems or aircraft,” he said in a speech on Sunday. “Did not receive what the partners could offer. Could – and still can.”

Prosecuting Russian authorities for war crimes will be incredibly difficult

Western leaders also pledged to hold those responsible for war crimes to account; French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted sunday that the photos of dead bodies from Bucha are “unbearable” and that “the Russian authorities should be held accountable for these crimes.”

Blinken and Biden have both condemned Russian atrocities in Ukraine, with Biden even casually calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” in March.

However, it is a long way from documentary evidence of alleged war crimes to a conviction in The Hague, Kip Hale, a lawyer who specializes in atrocity liability and who has worked on atrocity cases in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. , cafemadrid said via Signal message on Sunday.

Instances of “waging hostilities,” such as the bombing of a civilian block of flats, “are often the most difficult cases to investigate and prosecute,” Hale said. “Unfortunately, the forms of mass, violent crime on the ground that seem to be emerging in and around Kiev are on balance easier to investigate and prosecute.” It is much easier to see and document that many of the people killed in Bucha were not fighters and were not killed as part of an operation than it is to prove that no fighters were present in a bombed-out block of flats.

But all cases of atrocities are challenging at every stage of the process, from data collection to prosecution, even when there is broad support for accountability. While there’s a desire to go after senior Russian officials, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, that’s an incredibly difficult prospect that requires strong evidence — such as commanders’ orders or insider testimony — linking senior officials to specific crimes and atrocities.

“In all cases, the crimes themselves are easiest to investigate; gathering evidence against mid-to-senior officials is the most difficult evidence to obtain,” Hale told cafemadrid. “That is why professional investigative services or outfits are needed.”

To this end, Venediktova’s office is collecting evidence of war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law, and international bodies such as the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe are also working to collect evidence. Venediktova has also pledged to work with International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan to provide evidence.

Yet the prospect of full accountability for Russian war crimes is far from guaranteed, and war crimes take years to make their way through international legal systems; e.g. former Liberian President Charles Taylor’s war crimes trial in Sierra Leone lasted nearly five years before leading to a conviction in 2012.

Yet Venediktova has clearly stated the primary target of her office’s investigation: “The foremost war criminal of the 21st century is President Putin and his authorities – that they killed our people, they killed our innocent children, that they used illegal weapons. , and we have proof of all this.”

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