Human Rights Watch: Putin must be tried for war crimes in Mariupol assault that left thousands dead

Putin's crimes in Mariupol
Putin's crimes in Mariupol

The Russian siege of Mariupol, Donetsk region, at the beginning of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, included repeated attacks and destruction of civilian buildings and infrastructure, in clear violation of international humanitarian law. Kremlin dictator Vladimir Putin must stand trial in the investigation of war crimes committed in Mariupol.

This is stated in a 215-page report by the international watchdog organization Human Rights Watch (HRW), which analyzes the fighting and other events in the Ukrainian city temporarily occupied by Russia. The report notes that thousands of people have been killed in Mariupol, countless buildings have been destroyed, and a large-scale Russification campaign has begun since the capture, CNN reports.

A "conservative" estimate of the number of people killed in Mariupol is 8,000. HRW reported this based on interviews with city residents, satellite images, photos, and videos of city cemeteries. However, the actual number is much higher.

The report was prepared over almost two years in cooperation with the Ukrainian human rights group Truth Hounds. The document describes in detail the efforts of the Russian authorities to destroy Ukrainian culture in occupied Mariupol, restrict the movement of Ukrainians, and impose pro-Kremlin rhetoric.

Ida Sawyer, Director of Crisis and Conflict at HRW noted that the siege of Mariupol is "one of the worst chapters of the Russian invasion of Ukraine."

"It was a brutal and devastating attack. The people we interviewed who managed to escape described this period as hell on earth... We hope that this project will help ensure justice," she said.

The report traces the destruction of thousands of buildings by Russian forces, including hundreds of multi-story residential buildings and civilian infrastructure such as hospitals, schools, and universities.

HRW also identified 17 specific Russian or Russian-linked military units operating in the city during the peak of the fighting in March and April 2022, as well as high-level figures who, according to experts, may be criminally responsible.

"It was clear that high-level officials, all the way up to President Putin, were aware of the situation in Mariupol and appeared to be directly involved in the planning and coordination" of the assault on the city, Sawyer said.

The Russian president is already the subject of an arrest warrant for war crimes issued by the International Criminal Court, as he may be individually responsible for the illegal abduction and deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia.

HRW's report recommended that Putin and senior Russian commanders be investigated and that perpetrators be duly prosecuted for their role in the apparent war crimes in Mariupol, including "the possible arbitrary blocking of humanitarian aid and evacuation."

Mariupol on the map

As OBOZ.UA wrote:

– Recently, the director of the Russian bureau of the German ZDF channel Armin Kerper got into a loud scandal by filming a story in occupied Mariupol. The journalist distorted the picture of the life of Ukrainians and the "normal functioning" of the city under the "rule" of the Russian invaders.

– The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine responded to the incident. The spokesman for the Ministry, Oleh Nikolenko, emphasized that this was not journalism.

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