EU calls for creation of war crimes tribunal over mass graves in Ukraine – News

The appeal follows the discovery of around 450 graves outside the formerly Russian-occupied town of Izyum.



A forensic technician moves a cross in a forest on the outskirts of Izyum. —AFP

By AFP

Published: Sat Sep 17, 2022 9:47 PM

The EU presidency on Saturday called for the creation of an international war crimes tribunal after the discovery of new mass graves in Ukraine.

“In the 21st century, such attacks on the civilian population are unthinkable and heinous,” said Jan Lipavsky, Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.

“We mustn’t forget that. We stand for the punishment of all war criminals,” he added in a Twitter post.

“I call for the rapid establishment of a special international tribunal that will prosecute the crime of aggression.”

The appeal follows the discovery by Ukrainian authorities of around 450 graves outside the formerly Russian-occupied town of Izyum, with most of the exhumed bodies showing signs of torture.

“Of the bodies that were exhumed today, 99% showed signs of violent death,” Oleg Synegubov, head of the Kharkiv regional administration, said on social media.

“There are several bodies with their hands tied behind their backs and one person is buried with a rope around their neck,” he added.

“Russia leaves only death and suffering. Murderers. Torturers,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said. Some of the exhumed remains included children and people who were likely tortured before they died, he added.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday the graves likely provide more evidence that Russia was committing war crimes in its pro-Western neighbor, and French President Emmanuel Macron said what happened to Izyum was atrocities.

“I condemn in the strongest terms the atrocities committed in Izyum, Ukraine, under Russian occupation,” Macron tweeted.

The Ukrainian parliament’s human rights commissioner, Dmytro Lubinets, said there were “probably more than 1,000 tortured and killed Ukrainian citizens in the liberated territories of the Kharkiv region”.

Ukrainian national police chief Igor Klymenko said he found several torture chambers in the town of Balakliya and elsewhere in Kharkiv since the Russians were driven out.

The United Nations in Geneva said it hoped to send a team to determine the circumstances of the deaths.

The announcement of this macabre discovery raised a new wave of indignation in the West.

The findings came just over five months after the Russian army, driven from the vicinity of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, left behind hundreds of dead civilians, many bearing the marks of torture and summary executions.

The European Union is “deeply shocked” by the discovery by Ukrainian officials of mass graves in the recaptured town of Izyum, the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said on Friday.

“This inhumane behavior by Russian forces, in complete disregard of international humanitarian law and the Geneva conventions, must stop immediately.

On Thursday, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said she wanted Russian President Vladimir Putin to be brought before the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Ukraine.

In Washington, US President Joe Biden warned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin against the use of chemical or tactical nuclear weapons following the heavy losses suffered during his war in Ukraine.

“Don’t. Don’t. Don’t,” Biden said, in an excerpt from an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” that aired Friday night.

Biden was responding to an interviewer’s question about the possibility that Putin, whose military suffered heavy casualties in the Ukrainian counteroffensive this month, might resort to chemical or tactical nuclear weapons.

“You would change the face of war like nothing since World War II,” Biden said.

“They will become more of an outcast in the world than they ever have been,” the American leader added.

On the ground, Ukrainian forces have retaken thousands of square kilometers in recent weeks with a counter-offensive in the northeast and are now threatening enemy positions to the south as fighting and shelling continue.

The Russians “are angry because our army is pushing them back in their counteroffensive,” said Svitlana Shpuk, a 42-year-old worker in Kryvyi Rih, a southern town and Zelensky’s hometown, which was flooded after the destruction of a dam. by Russian missiles.

Kharkiv region governor Oleg Synegoubov said an 11-year-old girl was killed by missile fire in the area.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of Donestk in eastern Ukraine, partially controlled by Russian-backed separatists since 2014, said on social media that Ukrainian firefighters were battling a blaze there and the shelling had resulted in cuts in drinking water.

“The occupiers are deliberately targeting infrastructure in the area in an attempt to inflict as much damage as possible, primarily on the civilian population,” he charged.

The Russian military denies targeting civilian infrastructure or residential areas.

In its daily press briefing in Moscow, the Kremlin said it carried out “high precision” strikes against Ukrainian positions in the Mykolayev and Kharkiv regions.

In the relative calm of Kyiv on Saturday, hundreds of Ukrainians took part in a farewell ceremony at the Kyiv National Opera to former ballet dancer and then teacher Oleksandr Shapoval, who was killed aged 47 in a east of the country as he fought. Russians.

Shapoval was hit by mortar fire on September 12, near the town of Mayorsk in the Donetsk region.

Christi C. Elwood