Ukraine says atrocities uncovered during Russian troop withdrawal could be genocide – National

As Ukraine’s military liberates territory from Russian occupation, authorities say they are finding evidence of atrocities and crimes against humanity that could amount to genocide.

Oleg Nikolenko, spokesman for Ukraine’s foreign ministry, said the findings underscore the need for a special tribunal. But Ukraine’s allies, including Canada, question the proposal.

Nikolenko called the evidence « horrific » in a recent interview in Kyiv, and he added his voice to the debate that has been going on since the spring over whether Russia’s actions since its February invasion are genocidal.

« Unfortunately, in every city that the Ukrainian army liberates, there are places of mass atrocities, mass graves, torture chambers, » he said. « All these cases are currently under investigation. They are evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity. And if we look at Russia’s crimes in Ukraine holistically, it may even amount to a genocide.

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On Sunday, Ukraine’s Attorney General Andriy Kostin told the BBC that Russia’s recent strikes against energy infrastructure amounted to genocide. The attacks have plunged 10 million people into darkness, mainly in the capital Kyiv. The drinking water supply is also failing, raising fears of the arrival of winter.

The attorney general’s office has listed 49,471 war crimes and crimes of aggression it says have been committed since the Russian invasion began on February 24. Vladimir Putin’s troops once occupied up to a quarter of Ukrainian territory, but they had to retreat, and now an estimated 15% of the country is under Russian control, mainly in the east and the South East.

Researchers who have created abuse detection tools, including using social media, reported at a recent conference at the University of Ottawa that crimes and atrocities committed by Russian soldiers increased just before they do not cede territory. In Balakliya, a town liberated in September and recently visited by The Canadian Press, authorities said a torture chamber had been set up in the local police station.

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Determining what constitutes genocide can spark heated debate. Ukraine has long fought to have the Holodomor _ the man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine that killed millions in 1932-1933 _ recognized as genocide, which Canada did in 2008 The UN Genocide Convention defines genocide as acts « committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group ».

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Last month, Canada’s International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan invoked the Holodomor when discussing the Russian invasion, but said it was too early to say whether the current atrocities constituted genocide. « When you look at the number of missiles that were targeting civilians, it’s hard not to make the connection to the genocide that took place during (the) Holodomor, » Sajjan said.

Russia denies targeting civilians in its current campaign, but the government in Kyiv does not believe it. “Russia behaves like a terrorist state,” Nikolenko said. « He kills innocent people, for no particular reason or motive, just because they are Ukrainians and they continue to resist. »

Marie Lamensch, project coordinator at the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, based at Concordia University, recently spoke about the « hyperviolence » of the war in Ukraine, which she says , exceeds what has been seen before. She spoke at a recent Ukrainian Studies conference in Ottawa about “mutilating bodies even after murders.”

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Opinions are divided on the application of the genocide label to the war in Ukraine, and this could be the subject of political and legal debates.

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A specialist in Ukraine recently urged caution. French researcher Anna Colin Lebedev wrote on social media that there is a form of « ambient genocidal political discourse and deep contempt for Ukraine » in Russia. The author of « Never Brothers? » (« Never Brothers? »), On the complex relationship between Russia and Ukraine, noted that the Russian command was losing control of the situation on the ground. It specifies however that there is no proof allowing to conclude that “a direct order of extermination was given to the troops”.

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Colin Lebedev did not respond to an interview request.

Ukraine wants the International Criminal Court to prosecute and convict perpetrators of alleged atrocities, but says that would not be enough. The government also wants the creation of a special tribunal for « crimes of aggression » by one state against another _ which do not fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC.

Canada is considering the proposal for a new tribunal, a foreign affairs official said in an unattributed briefing. « There are practical and legal hurdles, » the official added, saying discussions are underway with G7 partners. « There is some skepticism about the feasibility of this. »

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