Putin and Russia must answer for atrocities in Ukraine

In a powerful speech to the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of the “most terrible war crimes” since World War II and rightly demanded that Russia face “full accountability” for its atrocities committed during its unprovoked invasion.

“They cut off limbs, slashed their throats, women were raped and killed in front of their children,” Zelenskyy said of Russian forces. “Their tongues were pulled out only because the aggressor did not hear what they wanted to hear from them.”


Other nations need not take Zelenskyy’s word for the existence of Russian war crimes. The world has been disgusted by images of dead civilians lying on the streets of Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv, from which Russian forces have withdrawn, and horrified by the accounts of abuse.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said Tuesday that what happened in Bucha was “a deliberate campaign to kill, to torture, to rape, to commit atrocities.”

President Joe Biden joined other world leaders in calling for the prosecution of Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes.

Not all the allegations of war crimes involve Bucha. Human Rights Watch says that it has documented several cases of Russian military forces committing “laws-of-war violations” against civilians in the Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Kyiv regions of Ukraine.

Predictably — and unpersuasively — Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, denied that Russian troops were targeting civilians, adding that while Bucha was under Russian control “not a single civilian suffered from any kind of violence.”

On Tuesday, Kremlin officials ludicrously insisted that the bodies in Bucha were fake.

Russia continues to blame the victim.

It won’t be easy to hold Russia or its leaders accountable for these atrocities. In his speech to the Security Council, Zelenskyy complained about the fact that Russia, as a permanent member of the council, could veto any resolution — and thus protect itself.

He suggested that Russia could be deprived of that power, but that is unlikely.

Whether or not they lead to criminal convictions, atrocities by Russian troops strengthen the case for increasing sanctions.

Even if Russia had been scrupulous about safeguarding civilians, its unprovoked aggression against Ukraine, a sovereign nation, was an outrage that warranted significant reprisals.

That the “special military operation” has been pursued with despicable brutality only strengthens the case for holding Russia accountable and empowering Ukraine to continue to defend itself. No nation should want to be a party to this continuing savagery.

The global community should cut off Russia from any source of funding that fuels its appalling campaign of violence and mutilation against the people of a country it claims are its brethren.

While that may cause some pain, especially to Europeans who depend heavily on Russian oil and gas, it is a small price to pay if it can stop the massacre of more Ukrainians.

— Los Angeles Times

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