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Ukraine: the UN accuses the Russian army of actions that could amount to war crimes

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On Friday, the United Nations accused the Russian military of actions “possibly amounting to war crimes” in Ukraine since the February 24 invasion. These accusations relate in particular to indiscriminate bombardments killing civilians and destroying schools and hospitals.

The UN on Friday accused the Russian army of actions “could amount to war crimes” in Ukraine since the February 24 invasion and found that humanitarian law had “been thrown overboard”. “Over the past eight weeks, international humanitarian law has not only been ignored, it has simply been thrown overboard,” said Michelle Bachelet, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights. quoted in a press release.

“Russian armed forces indiscriminately bombarded and shelled populated areas, killing civilians and destroying hospitals, schools and other civilian infrastructure, all actions that could amount to war crimes,” said Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, at a regular UN briefing in Geneva. “It is up to a court of justice to determine in fine if this is the case but there is more and more evidence that war crimes are committed,” she added.

The vast majority of violations “attributable to the Russians”

“What we saw in Kramatorsk, in the government-controlled area, on April 8, when cluster munitions hit the train station, killing 60 civilians and injuring 111 others, is emblematic of the failure to adhere to the principle of distinction (between civilians and soldiers), the prohibition to carry out indiscriminate attacks and the precautionary principle which is enshrined in international humanitarian law”, Michelle Bachelet said, indirectly accusing Russia.

If Ravina Shamdasani did not rule out that the Ukrainian side has also violated humanitarian law on certain occasions, “the very large majority of these violations, and by far, are attributable to Russian forces”, she insisted. She also indicated that 92.3% of the number of victims recorded by Michelle Bachelet’s services “are attributable to Russian forces, as are allegations of murder and summary executions”.

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“Summary executions” in Boutcha

The spokeswoman reported that UN inspectors documented the “murder, including some by summary execution”, of 50 civilians in the town of Boutcha, on the outskirts of kyiv, where Russian forces are accused of having committed abuses resulting in dozens of deaths. Charges that Moscow denies.

“During a mission to Boutcha on April 9, UN human rights investigators documented the killing, including the summary execution of some 50 civilians there,” Ravina Shamdasani said. The discovery in the streets of this locality of corpses of civilians, shortly after the withdrawal of Russian soldiers, had sparked a wave of international indignation in early April. Russia had assured that the Ukrainian authorities and the Western media had staged the massacre.

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Boutcha “is not an isolated incident”

Michelle Bachelet stressed that what happened in Boutcha was “not an isolated incident”. The human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine “collected more than 300 allegations of civilian killings” in areas under Russian control between late February and early March. But, beyond abuses, attacks on health infrastructure also have disastrous consequences. Michelle Bachelet estimates that at least 3,000 civilians died from lack of care or from the stress of war.

The mission is also investigating accusations of sexual violence by Russian soldiers against women, men and children and reports 155 cases of detention of civilians – local officials, journalists, human rights activists or defenders and others – by Russian troops. A practice that is becoming widespread in occupied areas, according to the High Commission.

Some were tortured and at least 5 people who had been forcibly kidnapped were found dead. As for the Ukrainian forces, Michelle Bachelet’s services have information on people arbitrarily detained and unable to communicate with relatives, which raises worrying questions about “enforced disappearances, respect for the law and the risk of torture and ill-treatment”.

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