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More war crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine, UN investigators say

Photo: Jae C. Hong Associated Press The report details Russian bombings at the end of July 2023 which affected cultural, religious or historical buildings, “all located in the historic center” of the city of Odessa, including the Transfiguration Cathedral.

Christophe Vogt – Agence France-Presse in Geneva

March 16, 2024

  • Europe

More civilian deaths, tortured people, sexual violence, which amount to war crimes, but also the theft of countless cultural property: UN investigators draw up a damning new assessment of the war that Russia has been waging against Ukraine for more than two years.

The commission of inquiry created by the Human Rights Council found “new evidence that the Russian authorities violated international human rights, international humanitarian laws and committed corresponding war crimes”, after 16 new visits to Ukraine and interviews with 422 women and 394 men to establish the facts published Friday.

“The Commission is concerned by the scale, persistence and seriousness of the violations and crimes it investigated as well as their impact on victims and affected communities,” insists the new report , which complements previous Commission investigations published last year.

It “confirms its previous conclusions, according to which the multiplicity of these attacks [in Ukraine] testifies to the disdain on the part of the Russian armed forces for the damage that can be caused to civilians”, underline the investigators.

Systematic torture

“New evidence reinforces the Commission's previous findings that torture used by Russian authorities in Ukraine and the Russian Federation is widespread and systematic,” they add.

The new report describes in particular the “horrific treatment” inflicted on Ukrainian prisoners of war in several detention centers in the Russian Federation.

“The victims’ stories reveal brutal and relentless treatment, which inflicted intense pain and suffering on them during prolonged detention, with blatant disregard for human dignity,” the investigators write, noting the lasting physical and mental trauma these victims suffer.

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The report details the fate of a Ukrainian soldier who was arrested and tortured by Russian authorities in several detention centers.

He recounted “his experience in the penal colony in the town of Donskoy, Tula region, where he was repeatedly tortured and left with broken bones and teeth and gangrene on an injured foot”.

“I lost all hope and will to live,” the soldier said, adding that he attempted suicide but the attackers beat him again. After his release, the soldier was hospitalized 36 times,” explain the investigators. »

The nature, pattern and methods used for torture “suggest that there is a more clearly defined policy,” one of the commissioners, Vrinda Grover, said at a press briefing in Geneva.

The report also documents “rape and other sexual violence inflicted on women in circumstances that amount to torture” and the investigation found “additional evidence of the illegal transfer of children in areas under Russian control”.

Odessa Cathedral

For the first time, investigators also looked into the fate of cultural objects and archives in the occupied territories.

They particularly investigated the city of Kherson and Odessa.

“Russian authorities transferred cultural objects from the Kherson Regional Art Museum and provincial archives” to Crimea, annexed in 2014 by Moscow.

“According to the estimates of the staff of the two institutions, more than 10,000 objects from the Museum and 70% of the documents from the main building of the State Archives have been removed,” underlines the report.

Local authorities cited the need to protect these objects from destruction.

For investigators, the authorities committed a war crime by seizing Ukrainian property, in particular through a law adopted in March 2023 which stipulates that these seized property and archives now belong to Russia.

Concerning Odessa, the report details Russian bombings at the end of July 2023 which affected cultural, religious or historical buildings, “all located in the historic center” of the city, including the Transfiguration Cathedral.

“These attacks hit cultural property which benefits from special protection under international humanitarian law,” notes the report.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116