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War crimes in Ukraine

The media has been full of images of apartment houses being attacked, burning buildings and destroyed vehicles.  We have been spared images of all of the murdered civilians in the streets of Ukraine. The Russian generals and President Putin have been accused of war crimes because of their attacks on Ukrainian civilians. 

war crime is a violation of the laws of war that gives rise to individual criminal responsibility for actions by the combatants, such as intentionally killing civilians or intentionally killing prisoners of war, torture, taking hostages, unnecessarily destroying civilian property, deception by perfidy, wartime sexual violence, pillaging, the conscription of children in the military, committing genocide or ethnic cleansing, the granting of no quarter despite surrender, and flouting the legal distinctions of proportionality and military necessity.

The prospects of deadly urban warfare against motivated Ukrainian partisans no doubt is the reason for the Russians having adopted the urban leveling strategy that is unfolding in front of our eyes.  Missiles, rockets, artillery and bombs are being used to demolish Ukrainian urban centers.  Clearly this is a set of war crimes.  We have not heard of the other types of war crimes, yet.  But before this conflict is over, we can expect there to be sexual violence, pillaging, and killing of prisoners.

There are reports that the war crimes tribunal has already sent investigators to Ukraine to begin their fact gathering.  There is no doubt that this will continue until the conflict is over.  Our experience with war crimes goes back to the end of World War II and the Nuremberg trials.  From the Nuremberg trials emerged the Nuremberg principles of law.  These were captured in the updated Geneva Conventions on the conduct of warfare. 

Alleging war crimes and trying the alleged villains are two much different things.  The search for the perpetrators of war crimes in Bosnia took years.  Adolph Eichmann escaped trial until the Israelis captured him in Argentina.  Trying Vladimir Putin or his generals would never happen until/unless Russia was to experience a coup of some kind and these individuals were to be turned over to the war crimes tribunal for incarceration until trial.  War crimes trials have only been possible when the perpetrators are from a defeated nation.  This means that the probability of Putin being tried for his war crimes are minuscule unless the coup mentioned above occurs.

The probability of reparations from Russia to rebuild Ukraine is also low.  The sale of the impounded Russian oligarch yachts and private aircraft may raise several billion dollars, but that will be far from sufficient to care for the surviving Ukrainians.  The wealth of Putin and his fellow war crimes perpetrators could assist in the rebuilding of Ukraine, but how do they appear in front of a tribunal without some form of coup?

Going back to how the destruction of Ukraine ends it would appear that absent a coup either Russia will capture at least Kyiv and that portion of the country east of the Dnieper River. 

Dnieper River runs from north to south through East-center Ukraine

Dividing the country along the Dnieper River would give the Russians control of the area where most of the damage has occurred.  Would this solve their hunger?  Probably not, but it appears that this is the best that the Russian military can achieve.  If this is how the current conflict ends it will only be a temporary cessation of hostilities.  There will be a continued insurgency in the east with a significant Russian casualty rate.  This casualty rate and the emasculated Russian economy my eventually lead to the coup that is necessary if the war criminals from the current conflict are ever to face the war crimes tribunal.  By the time that occurs there may be many more crimes and thus perpetrators in eastern Ukraine.


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