Iva Vukusic on the war in Ukraine: (alleged) Russian and Ukrainian war crimes

Barricades bij Euromaidan in Kiev © iStockphoto.com/myshkovsky
Barricades near Euromaidan in Kyiv © iStockphoto.com/myshkovsky

Already soon after the invasion of Ukraine, reports emerged of war crimes allegedly committed by Russia. In November 2022, images of alleged Ukrainian war crimes also surfaced. Several international media outlets reached out to assistant professor of international history and genocide scholar Iva Vukusic for her expertise. An overview.

Russian war crimes?

Ever since the invasion, Russia has been accused of major war crimes. In April 2022, Ukrainian President Zelensky even accused Russia of committing genocide. According to Iva Vukusic, it is likely that Zelensky chose this term because it implies ‘more political opportunism’ than similar crimes (Politics Home, 8 April 2022).

Dr. Iva Vukusic
Dr Iva Vukusic

Several human rights organisations have started collecting evidence of Russian war crimes. In The New York Times (3 July 2022), Vukusic explains that there are countless hurdles to overcome before war criminals can be held accountable. “There are thousands of potential suspects, and thousands of potential trials. All of the material needs to be properly marshaled and analyzed.”

Ukrainian war crimes?

In November 2022, footage surfaced that raised questions about whether Ukraine is also guilty of war crimes. Ten Russian POWs were overpowered, but an eleventh appeared to open fire. The image turns away and gunfire is heard. What happens next is unclear, but a second video shows at least eleven Russian servicemen lying lifeless on the ground.

Ukraine has announced that extensive investigations will follow. The authorities must share their findings and evidence in a transparent way to show that Ukraine is different from Russia, says Vukusic in The New York Times (20 November 2022). “They should seize on this opportunity and send a message: ‘We do not want a dirty war. We want to fight with honor, and legally.’”

The first criminal cases against Russia?

In March 2023, it was reported that the International Criminal Court in The Hague appears to be preparing the first two criminal cases against Russian suspects. The potential war crimes: the attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure and the deportation of children to Russia. Iva Vukusic comments on this historical development in international media: will Putin ever actually stand trial for Russian war crimes?

Will Putin ever stand trial in The Hague? “I don’t rule it out”