Ukraine probing over 122,000 suspected war crimes, says prosecutor

  • World
  • Friday, 23 Feb 2024

FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin attends a news briefing, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 16, 2024. REUTERS/Taras Garanich

BERLIN (Reuters) - Ukraine has launched investigations into more than 122,000 suspected cases of war crimes since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion nearly two years ago, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin said on Friday.

"We have identified already 511 perpetrators. And we have already 80 convictions in Ukrainian courts," mostly in absentia, Kostin told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference on international criminal law in Berlin.

While Russia has repeatedly denied that its forces have committed atrocities or attacked civilians, Ukrainian and Western authorities say there is evidence of murders and executions, shelling of civilian infrastructure and forced deportations, among other crimes.

The number of suspected war crimes is expected to continue rising, Kostin said.

"And maybe one of the reasons is that (Russia) still feels impunity," said Kostin.

Saturday marks the second anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians and soldiers and many Russian soldiers have been killed during the war, which has also devastated towns and villages in eastern Ukraine and has prompted millions to flee abroad.

The international community's help is needed in documenting, investigating and prosecuting war crimes, Kostin said, adding however that "99-plus percent of all cases will be investigated and prosecuted in Ukraine".

In December, the United States charged four Russia-affiliated soldiers with war crimes for allegedly beating and torturing a U.S. citizen and staging a mock execution.

This "very unusual" step signalled the willingness of the U.S. to hold perpetrators accountable, Christian Levesque, head of the U.S. Justice Department's war crimes accountability team, told the conference.

Germany has collected 500 concrete leads so far, German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said. Germany has also said it could prosecute war crimes on its own soil under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

Polish Justice Minister Adam Bodnar said his government planned to play a greater role in collecting evidence, adding that joint missions with the International Court of Justice to document war crimes on the ground were being discussed.

Russia says what it calls a "special military operation" is needed to protect its own security from a hostile West, while Ukraine and its Western allies say Moscow's actions represent an unprovoked war of aggression and an imperial-style land grab.

(Reporting by Nette Nöstlinger, Oliver Ellrodt and Sopia Linnebrink; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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