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5 Reasons Why Vladimir Putin’s Actions Constitute War Crimes

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Photo: Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

1. Violation of Ukraine’s Sovereignty

When Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to recognize the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and the Luhansk People's Republic in the Eastern part of Ukraine as two independent states, the Russian premier had no legal right to exercise direct control over the territory. The Donbas area in the eastern part of Ukraine has been a part of Ukraine ever since the Soviet Union's fall and has remained a province of Ukraine and not Russia. Since the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk areas as independent states in 2022, the Russian President and Russian Duma have supported separatist groups, meddling in Kyiv's affairs, and violating its national sovereignty. Invasion of a sovereign country is against peace between nations, creates aggression, and disrespects sovereign borders.

2. Targeting Civilians

According to national and on the ground reports, Russian forces have deliberately been bombarding roads, apartments, intersections, hospitals, schools, places of worship, ambulances, homes, and apartments containing Ukrainian civilians. According to various human rights organizations present in Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine, civilians and their families trying to flee from the capital and other areas faced Russian mortar, aerial, and troops. According to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Office, at least 536 civilians, 13 of which are children, were killed since the beginning of the invasion on February 24, 2022. When asked whether the Russian military was deliberately targeting civilians, U.S. President Joe Biden stated that Russian troops were. The strategy for why Russia is engaging in targeting civilians is to break the morale of the Ukrainian people, getting them to surrender and submit to Russian rule.

3. Targeting Ukrainian officials

According to U.S. officials, the Russian government has created a kill list of important Ukrainian officials and politicians to be arrested or attacked if the invasion of Ukraine becomes successful for Moscow. The kill list reportedly contains names and information regarding journalists, human rights activities, members of the Zelensky government, religious and ethnic minorities in Ukraine, and other groups. For the most part, President Zelensky and members of his government have evaded association attempts by Russian forces and continue to speak out against Moscow’s atrocities. Officials state that the plan would be for the Russian authorities to kill those arrested or sentence them to camps. Such arrests and deaths would be brutal and illegitimate, violating any norms of the international laws of war. If Russia controls Ukraine and installs a puppet regime to collect sensitive information on targeted individuals, this will constitute a violation of individual rights.

4. Rape in Kherson

In recent interviews with national media, Ukrainian residents of Kherson have claimed that the Russian troops have engaged in sexual attacks against women, including rape. Ukrainian women living in Kherson have claimed to talk to and witness young teenage women raped by enemy troops and then executed on the spot. There are reports of 11 specific cases of rape by enemy troops in Kherson, five of whom are currently alive. Many Ukrainian women in Kherson are inside their homes to avoid being sexually targeted by Russian soldiers. In a recent online rant, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Ivanovych Kuelba shared allegations of rape by Russian troops in Ukrainian cities. While the reports of rapes of Ukrainian women by Russian soldiers have no verification, many have not ruled out given the former Soviet Union’s atrocities committed against Germany at the end of World War II.

5. Use of Vacuum Bombs

With the Russian assault on Ukraine still ongoing, U.S. and European officials have seen credible reports of the use of vacuum bombs by the Russian military against ordinary Ukrainian civilians. Vacuum bombs or thermobaric bombs are explosive devices that use oxygen from the surrounding air and generate a high-temperature explosion. According to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), a blast from a vacuum bomb can rupture lungs, burn victims, create toxic air, and create burning fuel in the air. National media outlets from America and Europe have reported seeing Thermobaric rockets in the Russian city of Belgorod brooding the Ukrainian border. With the targeting of civilians and cities using destructive weapons like Vacuum bombs, U.S. officials have not ruled out Putin’s ability to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, adding on to the list of numerous war crimes committed in this invasion.

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