War Crimes Mount in Ukraine

On Friday, April 8, the European Commission adopted a fifth package of restrictive measures against Russia as the war against Ukraine enters its seventh week. The new list of sanctions includes: an import bans on Russian coal, a transactions ban and assets freeze on four Russian banks, completely cutting them off from all markets, bans on freight road operators working in the Eu and on Russian vessels to EU ports, an export ban on jet fuel and fuel additives to Russia, and a total prohibition on the participation of Russian nationals and entities in procurement contracts in the EU, among other restrictions.
The Kremlin has admitted to losing a significant but unknown number of troops since its invasion of Ukraine began. Russian troops are believed to be regrouping to return to the battlefield in Ukraine after a significant withdrawal following fighting in the town of Bucha, near the capital city of Kyiv. Ukraine’s intensive fighting efforts are likely greater than Russia anticipated logistically. Russian forces are said to be in short supply. Ukrainian citizens report the morale of Russian troops to be low, and seemingly they are often without guidance from their commanders.
“We were scared of them, but after a while, we started pitying them. They had dirty faces, they stank, and they looked completely lost,” says Yana Lugovets, who spoke with The Guardian. Like many families in Ukraine, Lugoyets has spent weeks huddled in the basement of her home with her family for several weeks.
After Russia’s withdrawal from Bucha, mass graves were discovered, and bodies of civilians were found to have been bound and shot from close range. Over 2,000 Ukrainian civilians have been reported killed since the invasion; 191 of them are said to be children.
“He walked just 20 meters from the house, and the Russians killed him. No warning, no reason … How can I tell them?” reports a sixty-two-year-old woman named Zinaida in the town of Bucha.
There are also widespread reports of sexualized violence against women, including weaponized rape, gang rapes, rapes in front of children, and sexual assaults occurring at gunpoint.
These civilians are being called war crimes by political leaders worldwide. President Joe Biden has called for the prosecution of Russian President Vladimir Putin following these discoveries.
Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba and former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown have launched a campaign to create a special tribunal to try Russia for the crime of aggression in Ukraine. As Ukraine is not a part of the International Criminal Court, it is unclear what body could bring charges against Russia, what the charges would entail, and whether the charges could be proven to a legal standard.
The U.S. has signed off on over $13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine. Military and financial assistance continues to trickle into Ukraine from governments around the world, many supplying everything from bullets to surface-to-air missiles.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is hopeful of resuming peace talks with Russia. So far, there have been six rounds of talks that have resulted in no agreement between the two countries.
“No one wants to negotiate with a person or people who tortured this nation. It’s all understandable. And as a man, as a father, I understand this very well,” Zelenskyy said in an interview with The Associated Press from within a fortified presidential complex. “We don’t want to lose opportunities, if we have them, for a diplomatic solution. We have to fight but fight for life. You can’t fight for dust when there is nothing and no people. That’s why it is important to stop this war.”
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