65,000 struggle crimes dedicated, lawyer common says

The prosecutor for war crimes of the Kharkiv region stands with a coroner and a police officer at the site of a mass burial in a forest during the exhumation September 16, 2022 in Izium, Ukraine.

Yevhenii Zavhorodnii | Global Pictures Ukraine | News from Getty Images | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Ukraine’s attorney general Andriy Kostin said Wednesday that regional authorities have registered more than 65,000 Russian war crimes since the Moscow conflict began almost a year ago.

“We all witnessed with horror the evidence of atrocities in the Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol, Izium, Kherson, Kharkiv regions and other liberated cities and towns,” Kostin said, adding that Ukrainian authorities have discovered mass graves in Russian-held territories would have troops.

“These crimes are not accidental or unintentional, they include indiscriminate shelling of civilians, premeditated killings, torture, conflict-related sexual violence, looting and large-scale forced evictions,” he added in a statement at Washington’s Georgetown Law School.

Continue reading: UN report contains horrific Ukrainian accounts of rapes, torture and executions by Russian forces

His comments add to an emerging picture of the horrors experienced in Ukraine during the nearly year-long war. The conflict has shown little sign of ending anytime soon, even as local and international officials try to investigate possible crimes committed in Ukraine in recent months.

In a separate conversation with journalists, Kostin said he believes Kyiv is on the verge of gaining US support for establishing a special court to try Russia’s aggression crimes.

Because potential war crimes cross a number of jurisdictions, the International Criminal Court cannot prosecute them or heads of state like Russian President Vladimir Putin. A special tribunal approved by the United Nations Security Council also seems unlikely, since Russia has the right to veto all measures taken by the 15-strong group.

Beth van Schaack, President Joe Biden’s global criminal justice ambassador, said Wednesday that the US is considering a proposal to appoint an interim prosecutor to begin recording evidence of potential crimes that could later be used.

Kostin recently said European countries like France and the UK had agreed to help create a special court.

Russia has repeatedly denied that its troops committed war crimes or targeted civilian attacks. The Russian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kostin outlined more of what he called Russian abuse. He said his teams also documented more than 14,000 Ukrainian children forced into adoption in Russia.

“This is a direct policy aimed at demographic change by cutting out Ukrainian identity,” Kostin said.

“These actions are characteristics of genocide,” he added.

The death toll in Ukraine is rising as the conflict rages on. As of Monday, the United Nations had confirmed at least 7,110 civilian deaths in Ukraine since the Russian invasion in late February.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said the death toll in Ukraine is likely higher as the armed conflict can delay reporting of deaths.

Kostin added that so far more than 75,000 buildings, including homes, schools and hospitals, have been reduced to rubble.

People warm themselves by fire in front of the main train station in Lviv, Ukraine.

Dan Kitwood | News from Getty Images | Getty Images

Kostin also criticized Russian attempts to weaponize the winter season by targeting critical energy infrastructure in Ukrainian cities.

“Russia resorts to forbidden methods of warfare, such as arming the winter and aiming to starve, freeze and terrorize the civilian population throughout Ukraine,” Kostin said. He noted that about half of Ukraine’s energy sector was destroyed by Russian shelling.

Last year, as winter approached the region, America’s top military officer labeled Moscow’s deliberate attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure a war crime.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, told reporters in November that the Kremlin’s “willful targeting of the civilian power grid, causing undue collateral damage and unnecessary suffering to civilians” was a war crime.

Continue reading: The Pentagon says Moscow’s targeted attack on Ukrainian energy grids is a war crime

Milley said at the time it was estimated that more than a quarter of Ukrainians across the country are without electricity during the winter.

Alongside Milley, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the time called Russia’s rocket and rocket attacks on civilian infrastructure “premeditated cruelty” and called on the Kremlin to end its “war of choice.”

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