The 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine has been going on for over 8 months now. Amidst the conflict, the Russian authorities and armed forces have reportedly committed multiple war crimes in the forms of deliberate attacks against civilian targets, massacres of civilians, torture and rape of children, and indiscriminate attacks in densely populated areas.

The Russian military exposed the civilian population to unnecessary and disproportionate harm by using cluster munitions and by firing other explosive weapons with wide-area effects such as bombs, missiles, heavy artillery shells, and multiple launch rockets.

As of the beginning of July, the attacks had resulted in the documented death or injury of more than 10,000 civilians including the documented death of 335 children, although the actual numbers are likely much higher. For the sake of documentation and retribution, if there are any to come in the future, we have compiled a list of 10 war crimes committed by Russia against the people of Ukraine.

1. Attacks against civilian targets

According to human rights organizations and the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, the invasion of Ukraine was carried out through indiscriminate attacks and strikes on civilian objects such as houses, hospitals, schools, and kindergartens.

Also Amnesty International stated that Russian forces had “shown a blatant disregard for civilian lives by using ballistic missiles and other explosive weapons with wide area effects in densely populated areas”

As of the 8th of April 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that there had been 91 verified Russian attacks on medical care in Ukraine – including attacks on healthcare facilities, patients, and healthcare workers – since 24 February. WHO estimated at least 72 killed and 43 injured in these attacks.

2. Targeting nuclear power plants

In March 2002, the Russian Military targeted the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Europe’s largest. The attack began when Ukraine forces fired anti-tank missiles and Russian forces responded with a variety of weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades.  During approximately two hours of heavy fighting, a fire broke out in a training facility outside the main plant, and other sections surrounding the plant also sustained damage. That evening, the Kyiv US Embassy described the Russian attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as a war crime

Ukraine regulatory authorities stated that Russian forces fired artillery shells at the plant, setting fire to the training facility. The Russian Ambassador to the UN responded that Russian forces were fired upon by Ukrainian “saboteurs” from the training facility, which they set fire to when they left.

3. Abduction and torture of civilians

On 4th  April 2021, Dementiy Bilyi, head of the Kherson regional department of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, said that the Russian security forces were “beating, torturing, and kidnapping” civilians in the Kherson Oblast of Ukraine. He added that eyewitnesses had described “dozens” of arbitrary searches and detentions, resulting in an unknown amount of abducted persons. At least 400 residents had gone missing by 16 March.

On 22 July Human Rights Watch published a report documenting 42 cases of torture, unlawful detention, and enforced disappearance of civilians in the Russian-occupied areas of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. Witnesses described torture through prolonged beatings and electric shocks causing injuries including broken bones, broken teeth, severe burns, concussions, cuts, and bruises. They also described being kept blindfolded and handcuffed for the entire duration of the detention and being released only after having signed statements or recorded videos in which they pledge to cooperate or urge others to cooperate with the Russian forces.

4. Sexual violence

After the Russian withdrawal from areas north of Kyiv, there was a “mounting body of evidence” of rape, torture, and summary killings by Russian forces inflicted upon Ukrainian civilians, including gang rapes committed at gunpoint and rapes committed in front of children. At the beginning of June, the Monitoring Mission had received reports of 124 episodes of conflict-related sexual violence committed by Russian forces against women, girls, men, and boys in various Ukrainian cities and regions

As of 5 July, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine had verified 28 cases of conflict-related sexual violence, including rape, gang rape, torture, forced public stripping, and threats of sexual violence. OHCHR reported that the majority of cases were committed in areas controlled by Russian armed forces and that there were also cases committed in Government controlled areas.”


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6. Torture and rape of children

In late September 2022 a panel of investigators from the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine  released a statement which said that the commission has “documented cases in which children have been raped, tortured, and unlawfully confined.” and labeled these as war crimes. The same report also referenced children being killed and injured by Russia’s indiscriminate attacks as well as forced separation from family and kidnapping.

7. Forced conscription

At the end of February, Ukrainian civilians were reportedly forced to join the pro-Russian separatist forces in the self-proclaimed Luhansk and Donetsk people’s republics. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights documented cases of people forcefully taken to assembly points where they were recruited and immediately sent to the front line.

They were men working in the public sector, including schools, and also people stopped on the street by representatives of local “commissariats”.  As recalled by the OHCHR, compelling civilians to serve in armed groups affiliated with a hostile power may constitute a serious breach of the laws and customs of international humanitarian law, and it constitutes a war crime under Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the ICC.

8. Execution of surrendering Ukrainian soldiers

One of the numerous war crimes commited by  Russia against the people of Ukraine is the execution of Surrendering Ukrainian soilders. At a meeting of the UN Security Council, the US ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice Beth Van Schaack said that US authorities have evidence that surrendering Ukrainian soldiers were executed by the Russian army in Donetsk.

A Ukrainian soldier who was shown among prisoners in a Russian video on 20 April, was confirmed dead days later.  Eyewitness accounts and a video filmed by a security camera provide evidence that on 4 March Russian paratroopers executed at least eight Ukrainian prisoners of war in Bucha. The victims were local inhabitants who had joined the defense forces shortly before they were killed.

9. Use of human shields

One of the major war crimes commited by Russia, is using Ukrainian civilians as human shields. ABC News and The Economist reported Russian soldiers using over 300 Ukrainian civilians as human shields in Yahidne from 3 to 31 March. Russian forces were using the village as a base to attack the nearby city of Chernihiv and had established a major military camp in the local school.

For 28 days, 360 Ukrainian civilians, including 74 children and 5 persons with disabilities, were held captive in inhumane conditions in the basement of the school while the nearby areas were under attack by the Ukrainian forces.The basement was overcrowded, with no toilet facilities, water and ventilation. Ten elderly people died as a consequence of the poor detention conditions.

Witness accounts report cases of torture and killings.According to the OHCHR what happened in the school of Yahidne suggests that the Russian armed forces were using civilians to render their base immune from military attacks while also subjecting them to inhuman and degrading treatment.

10. Looting

Looting is a war crime under several treaties. According to  Survivors of the Bucha Massacre, Russian soldiers went door to door, questioning people and destroying their possessions. They also said that Russian soldiers looted the town, and took clothing, jewelry, electronics, kitchen appliances and vehicles of evacuees, the deceased, and those still in the city.

Wall Street Journal journalist Yaroslav Trofimov reported hearing of Russian soldiers looting food and valuables during his visit to southern Ukraine.  The Guardian journalists visiting Trostianets after a month-long Russian occupation found evidence of “systematic looting”. Similarly, villagers in Berestyanka near Kyiv told ABC News that before the village returned to Ukrainian control, Russian soldiers looted clothes, household appliances and electronics from homes

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