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June 12, 2024

Russia using war crimes ‘systemically’ in Ukraine – human rights lawyer

The Nobel Prize-winning Centre for Civil Liberties has found evidence of over 72,000 war crimes committed in Ukraine by the Russian Federation, which is using war crimes “systematically” as a weapon of war, according to human rights lawyer Oleksandra Matviichuk.

“Russia uses war crimes as a method of warfare,” she told DW, describing the deliberate shelling of residential buildings, schools, churches, museums and hospitals, attacks on evacuation corridors, torture in filtration camps, the forced abduction of Ukrainian children and the robbing, rape and murder of civilians in occupied territories.

“Russia instrumentalizes pain and uses it as a tool,” she claims, adding that Moscow has behaved in a similar fashion historically in places such as Chechnya, Moldova, Georgia, Mali, Libya and Syria.

“And when people ask me why they do such things because there is no military necessity in it, I can only answer: because they can. Russia has never been punished. That’s why Russians believe they can do whatever they want.”

As such, Matviichuk welcomes the arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Children’s Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova over the unlawful deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia since the full-scale invasion.

“It’s a first step and a strong signal that justice is possible,” she said, using the example of the eventual indictment of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.

In the short term, she also said it’s important to send a message to certain countries and politicians, even in some developed democracies, that there can be “no return to business as usual” with Russia.

“It’s not possible for democratic leaders in democratic countries to shake hands with the biggest child kidnapper in the world,” she said.

Ukraine’s lost children: ‘This is not just a war crime’

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