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Russia must be defeated in court too, says Ukraine chief prosecutor

There must be 'no safe haven' for those ordering Russian war crimes, Ukrainian prosecutor general Andriy Kostin says
There must be 'no safe haven' for those ordering Russian war crimes, Ukrainian prosecutor general Andriy Kostin says - Copyright AFP/File Sergei SUPINSKY
There must be 'no safe haven' for those ordering Russian war crimes, Ukrainian prosecutor general Andriy Kostin says - Copyright AFP/File Sergei SUPINSKY
Olivier Baube

Russia’s “war crimes” in Ukraine have been recorded in tens of thousands of case files and it must answer them in court, the Ukrainian prosecutor general said in Brussels.

“Russia must be defeated on the battlefield and in the courtroom,” Andriy Kostin told AFP in an interview between meetings with EU officials.

The chief prosecutor accused Russia of committing war crimes as a “pattern of conduct… a policy which is orchestrated from the very top leadership”.

Some 123,000 war crimes cases have been logged since Russia launched its all-out invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, he said.

The prosecution work has identified 511 suspects in the case, of which 357 could be brought to justice.

Already, “we have convictions against 81 Russian war criminals”, he added, explaining that 17 had been taken to court in trials and handed prison sentences.

“Some of them are still in jail. Some of them, we have exchanged” in prisoner exchanges with Russia, Kostin said.

Even if many convictions were handed down in the absence of the accused, it was important, he said, for victims to see a verdict delivered.

The crimes judged included the murder of civilians, rapes — and the deportation of Ukrainian children, only 400 of whom have been repatriated out of some 200,000 forcibly taken away, he said.

– ICC intervention –

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is working to hold Russia’s leadership responsible for the children’s deportation and for the crime of aggression. 

It has already issued warrants against Russian President Vladimir Putin and against Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s presidential commissioner for children’s rights.

On Tuesday it issued warrants against two senior Russian officers for strikes on Ukrainian power infrastructure.

But neither Russia nor Ukraine are members of the ICC, even if Kyiv has been working with the court to supply evidence of alleged Russian crimes. 

International investigators are helping Ukrainian authorities with the mammoth task of collecting, compiling and cataloguing evidence.

The work — aided by AI tools that sift through the mountains of input, including witness statements, phone conversations, social media posts and seized documents — makes the conflict the most documented in history, Kostin said.

“Our objective this year is to have more suspects charged by other jurisdictions,” Kostin said, noting warrants issued by the United States and action last week by Lithuania.

“It’s important to show that there will be no safe haven,” he said.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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