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Ukraine War: Mapping of suspected Russian atrocities after EU seeks special tribunal

India Today logo India Today 06-12-2022 Bidisha Saha
Ukraine War: Mapping of suspected Russian atrocities after EU seeks special tribunal © Provided by India Today Ukraine War: Mapping of suspected Russian atrocities after EU seeks special tribunal

After nine months since Russia began its invasion, at least 1,500 civilian buildings, structures, and vehicles in Ukraine have been damaged or destroyed. More than 17,181 civilian casualties were reported in Ukraine including 6,702 killed and 10,479 injured, according to the report of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), who cited that the actual toll was likely to be "considerably higher."

On November 30, European Commission President Ursula Leye announced that the EU, with the support of the United Nations, "will try to set up a specialised court", to investigate and prosecute possible war crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine. The draft calls for a Nuremberg-style tribunal to hold the Russian leadership accountable for crimes of aggression. More than 50,000 incidents of suspected war crimes have been reported by Ukraine's prosecutor general in a tweet on Sunday. Hundreds of cases of "war crimes, genocide, and crimes of aggression" are being pursued by Ukrainian authorities.

With the help of the report released by OHCHR and the European Union, India Today maps large-scale incidents of suspected war crimes by the Russian military since the start of Putin's war against Ukraine. 

READ: Russia shelled Kherson 258 times last week, says Zelensky, US to help Ukraine restore power | Top points


"Persons taking no active part in the hostilities shall in all circumstances be treated humanely" - Article 3 Part 1 IV Geneva Convention(12/08/1949).

About seven decades ago, the international community pledged to end large-scale deaths of innocent civilians during wars. International treaties like the Geneva Conventions, United Nations Charter, and other agreements were signed. Thus, the rules of war were created, violating which amounts to a potential war crime.

It prohibits the killing of civilians, torture of prisoners, and launching nuclear weapons over residential settlements. It also includes excessive brutality in wartime, when a military deliberately attacks peaceful civilians, and residential infrastructure to kill unprotected women and children and target other humanitarian missions. It bans using lethal nukes designed to target civilians indiscriminately on a large scale.

In the non-exhaustive list of war crimes released by Ukraine's Internal Affairs Ministry are attacks on religion, murder of innocent civilians, destruction of civilian infrastructure, torture of hostages of war, rapes of women, and attacks against religion and culture.

READ: Russian soldiers' wives encourage them to rape women: Ukraine's First Lady

"How much longer will the world be an accomplice ignoring terror?" - Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy


Bucha Massacre

In early April'22, the Ukrainian forces reclaimed control of Kyiv and liberated other towns from Russian troops, soon after they discovered traces of various war crimes and released subsequent images.

US Secretary of State, Antony Bliken described the images as "a punch in the gut," while also ordering an independent investigation. Ukrainian troops have found the bodies of women who have been raped and set ablaze along with the bodies of children and local people. Mass graves were also discovered by the army and corpses with their hands and feet tied. Locals also claimed that Russians had systematically broken down doors to loot flats and steal valuables.

Officials stated more than 300 people were killed by Russian forces in Bucha alone. Ukraine's government accused the Kremlin of genocide and other violations of war laws. Russia dismissed the allegation as a "provocation".

READ: Fierce fighting rages in Ukraine's Donetsk, Russia says 'avoid confrontation with nuclear powers'

Mariupol Maternity Bombing

On March 9, a missile airstrike ripped through maternity and children's hospital in the southeastern city of Mariupol. Videos showed a pregnant woman being escorted out of the bombed building while charred vehicles and trees were outside. She and her unborn child eventually succumbed to the injuries, sending shockwaves across the globe and triggering international condemnation. At least 17 people were injured and 5 died in the attack, including children, women, and doctors reported CNN.


At the time of the attack, Mariupol continued to be under siege with many civilian buildings at risk. Russian forces also bombed the city's Drama Theater, where hundreds of people and children had been sheltering. The word "children" was written in Russian in giant letters on the pavement on both sides of the building, clearly visible from the sky.


Kharkiv Attack

A cluster munitions strike on a playground on Mira Street in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, killed 9 civilians and wounded 35. In its report earlier this year, Amnesty International reported that Russia's "relentless" shelling, bombing, and scattered land mines near the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, amounts to a war crime as it indiscriminately killed hundreds of civilians. The city had been under constant bombardment right from the beginning of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February.


"The repeated bombardments of residential neighborhoods in Kharkiv are indiscriminate attacks which killed and injured hundreds of civilians and as suck constitute war crimes," Amnesty said in its report.

Kupiansk Civilian Convoy Shelling

Twenty-six Ukrainians died including nine children after the Russian shelling of a civilian convoy at "greyzone" between Svatove in Luhansk and Ukrainian-held Kupiansk on September 25. The group of 48 civilians who came under attack was part of an organised evacuation from the city under bombardment. Seven vehicles were hit in the shelling, the bodies were shot and burned out apparently as reported by the seven witnesses.


Chernihiv Breadline Shooting

Russian forces reportedly shot and killed around 14 civilians queuing to buy bread in the northeastern city of Chernihiv, stated the United States embassy in Kyiv. In its Twitter post, it said "Such horrific attacks must stop."


Kramatorsk Railway Massacre

On April 8, a Russian missile fired at Kramatorsk Railway Station killed at least 50 people and injured hundreds while scores of Ukrainians tried to evacuate the city amid heavy Russian shelling across the wider Donetsk region. Ukrainian officials claimed that at least 4,000 people including women and children were waiting at the station to board the evacuation train that day to be escorted to safer regions in central and western Ukraine ahead of an expected massive offensive in the east.


Abduction and Torture

Russian forces kidnapped a Ukrainian reporter for Radio France on March 5 for nine consecutive days. He was repeatedly tortured, left in an ice cellar, beaten with an iron rod, and steel bars, given electric shocks, and deprived of food.

READ: Joe Biden, Emmanuel Macron condemn Russia's Vladimir Putin for Ukraine invasion but open for talks

Torture is banned by Article 32 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Article 2 of the United Nations Conventions against torture.

There were also reports of Russian security forces torturing civilians in Kherson Oblast of Ukraine. On June 1, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy accused Russia of forcibly deporting more than 200 thousand children from Ukraine. The parents of some of these children have been killed by the military. Since the city was liberated, local prosecutors have recorded 1,500 suspected crimes in Kherson city, Reuters reports.

Sexual violence

Multiple instances have surfaced that clearly indicate that sexual violence has been used by the Russian command as a deliberate weapon of war. After the withdrawal of forces from areas near the north of Kyiv, Kherson, there remains a mounting body of evidence of rape, torture, and summary killings by Russian forces inflicted upon civilians including gang rapes committed at gunpoint often in front of children.

United Nations Commission reported acts of sexual violence against women and children from four to eighty years of age in Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy regions, and Kharkiv. The report has documented instances of women being gang-raped, men castrated, children sexually abused and civilians forced to parade naked.

International Support to Ukraine

In the weeks since Russia began its invasion, the United States continued to supply Ukraine with weapons, particularly air-defense systems to shield the country from the ongoing barrage.

The International Criminal Court has opened a formal investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. "Under international humanitarian law, combatants and commanders are supposed to take steps to minimize harm to civilians or civilian objects, like homes, buildings, other infrastructure or vehicles that are not being used for military purposes. In some cases, they are supposed to warn the occupants ahead of an attack."

But Ukraine's leadership argues that the ICC is subdued as it can only prosecute those charged with individual war crimes, it cannot indict the Kremlin leadership over the broader "crime of aggression" since Russia is not a signatory to the relevant statute. Hence, the demand for a "specialised court" arises although United States has not yet taken a firm position on a special tribunal.

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