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OSCE report says Russia committed “war crimes” in attacks on Mariupol, Ukraine

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Russia has violated international humanitarian law by deliberately targeting civilians during its invasion of Ukraine, and those who ordered attacks on maternity hospitals and theaters have taken refuge in the besieged city of Mariupol, committed war crimes, the organization said. Security and Cooperation in Europe fact-finding report released on Wednesday.

The Vienna-based security body has widely accused Russia targeted at hospitals, schools, housing and water facilities in their military operations, resulting in deaths and injuries to civilians.

“Taken as a whole, the report documents a catalog of the inhumanity perpetrated by Russian forces in Ukraine,” Michael Carpenter, the US ambassador to the OSCE, said in a speech Wednesday. “This includes evidence of direct attacks on civilians, attacks on medical facilities, rapes, executions, robberies and the forced deportation of civilians to Russia.

The report concludes that the air strike that tore apart a maternity hospital in Mariupol was a Russian attack. “Based on Russian explanations, the attack must have been intentional,” the report on the March 9 attack on the maternity hospital and children’s hospital in Mariupol said. “No effective warning was given and no deadline was set. This attack is therefore a clear violation of international humanitarian law and those responsible for it have committed a war crime.

Ukraine’s battered Mariupol, fleeing a hospital strike, says Russia’s attack continues as corpses pile up

While the Russian government claims that the hospital was used for military purposes, Carpenter said that “the mission categorically rejected these allegations.” OSCE experts have not traveled to Ukraine, but have sorted evidence from a variety of sources, including open source material and accounts from human rights and non-profit organizations.

The OSCE report also found that the attack on the Mariupol Drama Theater, where hundreds of civilians are fleeing as the building was destroyed, “is most likely a gross violation of international humanitarian law and committed by those who ordered or carried it out.” war crime “

Overall, the investigation found “clear patterns of violations of international humanitarian law by Russian forces in the conduct of hostilities,” the report said.

However, it added that while the report “may contribute to the first collection and analysis of facts, more detailed investigations are needed, in particular with regard to the establishment of individual criminal responsibility for war crimes”.

The report traces alleged abuses from February 24, the day of Russia’s invasion, to April 1. It does not include last week’s rocket attack on a station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk that killed more than 50 people, including children, or atrocities recently reported in Bucha, a suburb of the capital, Kyiv.

The 110-page report also found “credible evidence to suggest that such violations of even the most basic human rights … have been committed, especially in areas under Russia’s effective control.”

The OSCE launched its investigation last month following a vote by most member states, including Ukraine, to conduct a fact-finding mission. The United States is part of the 57-nation body, as is Russia and its ally Belarus. Russia and Belarus were among a dozen countries that did not vote in favor of the review and have not yet commented publicly on the report.

The OSCE investigation was triggered by a vote on the Moscow Mechanism, called a conference in 1991 in the Russian capital that allows member states to send independent experts on missions to another member state to resolve ” human rights and democracy, ”the OSCE said.

Carpenter said the OSCE would share its findings with the International Criminal Court, national courts and others that have jurisdiction over alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Ukrainian authorities said hundreds of civilians had been executed in Bucha and had evidence of torture, dismemberment and close-range shooting. The alleged events in Bucha – established when Ukraine recaptured more territory and Russian forces began to move from areas near Kyiv to the east and south of the country – led to Russia’s removal from the UN Human Rights Council. Russia claims that such killings were “staged” or “fake”.

The OSCE report said the events in Bucha deserved a “serious international on-site investigation by forensic experts” and said “evidence points to a major war crime and a crime against humanity committed by Russian forces” in the northwestern city of Kyiv.

Carpenter said that because the crimes were probably committed before the OSCE team’s term expired on April 1st – although evidence emerged afterwards – the OSCE still needs to have jurisdiction and “there will need to be further investigations”.

International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan called Ukraine a “crime scene” on Wednesday during a visit to Bucha as his team gathered evidence.

In Bucha, a mass search for bodies left by Russian occupiers

“This report is only the first of probably many,” said UK Ambassador to the OSCE Neil Bush. “As an international community, we must be held accountable for the atrocities committed in Ukraine, including by military commanders and others in the Putin regime.

The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Rights’s report also says that women and children have been particularly hard hit by Russia’s abuses. The body also noted Ukraine’s role in allegations of ill-treatment and treatment of prisoners of war. “However, the violations committed by the Russian Federation are far greater in nature and scale,” the statement said.

President Biden on Tuesday cited the killings in Ukraine as a sign that Russia was committing “genocide,” a term previously avoided by US officials. He later told reporters that he had deliberately used the word in his speech, although he added that he would “leave it up to lawyers to decide internationally whether he meets the requirements or not”. But he said, “I certainly think so.”

President Biden spoke about why he called the April 12 war in Ukraine “genocide.” “It certainly seems that way to me,” he said. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: The Washington Post)

Detailing the findings of the OSCE report, Carpenter, the US ambassador, told reporters on Wednesday that the decision to commit genocide was outside the scope of the OSCE team’s fact-finding mission.

But he said “President Biden was very clear in calling the events in Ukraine genocide, due to growing evidence that President Putin is trying to erase the idea of ​​being Ukrainian.”

“This desire to destroy the Ukrainian people is seen in the appalling images of Russia’s barbaric treatment of civilians and in areas that were previously under Russian control,” Carpenter said. “This has been proven in the speeches of Russian leaders and articles in the press appearing in the Russian media, which deny Ukraine’s right to exist as an independent state.

Carpenter reiterated Biden’s assertion that international law experts would have to determine whether Russia’s actions met the legal definition of genocide set out in the 1948 International Genocide Convention.

Has Russia committed war crimes or genocide in Ukraine?

“A legal review based on a thorough gathering of evidence is under way,” he said. “It will take some time to complete, but in the meantime the president has made a very clear moral determination on this issue.

The war in Ukraine lasted more than seven weeks with 1,892 people killed and 2,558 wounded, according to an incomplete UN estimate. Ukrainian authorities say the actual number of civilian casualties is many thousands higher. About 4.6 million people have fled the country as refugees.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday called the war a “tragedy”, but insisted that Russia had “no choice” but to invade its western neighbor. He told reporters that the “special military operation” in Ukraine was going according to plan and would continue until its goals were achieved.

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The Moscow mechanism has been used nine times before by the OSCE, first in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992. It was last used in Belarus in 2020, when 17 member states called for an investigation into alleged human rights abuses. there.

The United States, Germany, Britain and France were among the member states that cited the mechanism last month. Earlier in April, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for Russia to be removed from the OSCE for its “unjustified aggression.”

Carpenter did not rule out the possibility of the United States and its allies relying again on the Moscow mechanism to continue investigating alleged war crimes in Ukraine.