Ukraine House in Denmark

Russian War Crimes in Ukraine: A Plea for Justice and Accountability

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Executions, torture of prisoners, forced deportation of children, obstruction of evacuation, shelling of civilians, hospitals, and infrastructure... During the 20 months of the invasion the army of the Russian Federation committed almost all types of crimes mentioned in the Geneva Conventions. The General Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine has opened nearly 110,000 proceedings related to war crimes. Ukraine demands the creation of a special tribunal for the crime of aggression, which it calls ‘the mother of all crimes’.

Russian War Crimes in Ukraine: A Plea for Justice and Accountability
Russian War Crimes in Ukraine: A Plea for Justice and Accountability Alex Benes Ukraine House in Denmark

Last Friday, Ukraine House in Denmark, jointly with The Reckoning Project, hosted an event dedicated to discussion of the heinous war crimes committed by the Russian Federation during its invasion of Ukraine. Moderated by Troels Heeger, a journalist of Berlingske, the event aimed to shed light on the grim reality of executions, torture of prisoners, forcible deportation of children, obstruction of evacuation, and the shelling of civilians, hospitals, and infrastructure through screening of documentaries and conversation with the Ukrainian journalist and a co-founder of The Reckoning Project Nataliya Gumenyuk and one of the witnesses.

Nataliya Gumenyuk emphasized the distinction between tragedy and crime in the context of war crimes: "It’s not a tragedy; it's a crime. If it's a tragedy, we are powerless. If it's a crime, we have a responsibility to prosecute it and make sure it doesn't happen again."

She also said that the actions of the Russian Army are a consequence of impunity. This army honed its criminal tools in Chechnya and Syria, which were not as well documented as there were not as many journalists on the territory controlled by dictators as in Ukraine. By telling stories of the witnesses and victims of the war crimes, we have an opportunity to not only seek justice but prevent war crimes from happening in the future. 

A witness shared a harrowing experience from Oleshky, where he taught at the Children's Oleshky Orphanage — an institution for children with disabilities. The institution, known for its excellent reputation and infrastructure, faced unprecedented challenges during the occupation.

The witness described the attempts by unidentified representatives of the occupation administration to offer assistance while simultaneously pushing the "Russian world" ideology. Despite their independence, the institution eventually fell victim to the first stage of deportation on October 21, 2022, with approximately 86 children and 35 adults in the facility.

A series of transfers ensued, with children being moved to different locations in Russia, including long trips that are particularly difficult for children with disabilities. The lack of communication and information about the children's whereabouts raises serious concerns about their well-being and safety.

Highlighting the struggle to bring the children back, the witness expressed his motivation 

to continue the mission: "I gave them my word that I would bring them back… The main thing is to bring them back; everything else is just difficulties along the way. Without faith, there is no way."

Ukraine House in Denmark calls for justice and an end to the atrocities committed by the Russian Federation. The event underscored the importance of collective efforts to document the war crimes and seek justice.

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