New York Daily News
Calls grow for charging Russia with war crimes
Accusations that Russia has committed war crimes in Ukraine grew louder over the weekend as world leaders called for prosecution of those responsible for the invading nation’s gruesome atrocities.
Russia must be held accountable before it can have normal relations with Western nations after the war, Estonia’s prime minister said Sunday.
“I don’t think there can be any relations as usual with a pariah state that hasn’t really given up the imperialistic goals,” Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said in Munich, where a major security conference was being held.
“If we don’t learn this lesson and don’t prosecute the crimes of aggression, the war crimes will just continue,” she said.
Estonia is the biggest per-capita contributor of military aid to Ukraine. The U.S. has provided the most economic and military backing, while European nations and other allies have committed tens of billions of dollars to aiding Ukraine, and taken in millions of refugees.
Vice President Kamala Harris said Saturday in a speech at the Munich Security Conference that Russia has committed crimes against humanity in Ukraine and must be held accountable.
She cited Russia’s use of “execution-style killings, beatings and electrocution” against civilians in its invasion and said Russia has “forcibly deported hundreds of thousands of people, from Ukraine to Russia, including children.”
“Russian forces have pursued a widespread and systemic attack against a civilian population — gruesome acts of murder, torture, rape and deportation,” Harris said.
“Justice must be served,” the vice president said. “These are crimes against humanity.”
She also mentioned the Russian attack last March on a theater in Mariupol that killed hundreds of civilians and bodies were left in the streets of Bucha after Russian forces retreated.
In response, the Russian ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, called Harris’ claims “an attempt to demonize Russia.”
The Biden administration formally determined in March that Russian troops committed war crimes in Ukraine and said it would work with other nations to prosecute offenders.
The call of crimes against humanity takes the accusations further, indicating that attacks against civilians are being carried out in a widespread and systematic manner.
The Estonian prime minister said no
tribunal had been set up to prosecute Russia following the Cold War, when there were mass deportations of Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians for decades of Soviet occupation.
“There has to be accountability [before] we can talk about our relations with Russia,” she said.
Kallas, who leads Estonia’s center-right Reform Party, also said any peace deal that cedes Ukrainian territory to Russia would signal to the world that “aggression pays off.”
Kallas has been mentioned in speculation about who will become NATO secretary general when the position comes open in the fall.
Talk of Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine dominated the Munich conference, where security and defense officials gathered from around the world. Russian officials were not invited to the conference this year.
On the sidelines of the meeting, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said, “Russia waged a genocidal war against Ukrainians because they do not recognize our identity and they do not think we deserve to exist as a sovereign nation.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in an address on Saturday talked about “the inevitability of holding Russia accountable for aggression, for terror against Ukraine and its people.”
“Every Russian attack … on every corner of our state will have concrete legal consequences for the terrorist state,” Zelenskyy said.
The president cited attacks dating back to 2014, when fighting between Kyiv forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine broke out.