Hundreds investigated over more than 15,000 war crimes in Ukraine

Three more nations join Eurojust's international investigation team

Prosecutor Karim Khan istens as Ukraine's top prosecutor Iryna Venediktova reveals 15,000 war crimes have been identified. Reuters
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Ukraine has identified more than 15,000 suspected war crimes and is investigating about 600 people, including Russian ministers and military commanders.

On Tuesday, Ukraine's prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova joined an international conference, hosted by Eurojust, to target those who have committed war crimes during the invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine has identified 600 people suspected of the “anchor” crime of aggression, including a “high level of top military, politicians and propaganda agents of Russian Federation”, the prosecutor general said.

In total, Ukraine has identified more than 15,000 war crimes cases across the country since Russia's invasion on February 24, she said.

She said thousands of the crimes had been identified in the eastern Donbas region where Russian forces are pressing on with their offensive.

“Of course we started a few thousand cases about what we see in Donbas,” she said.

Ukrainian authorities do not have access to Russian-held areas of Donbas, but have been interviewing evacuees and prisoners of war.

“Our prosecutors have interviewed a large number of refugees,” she said.

“All war criminals who are responsible for their crimes should pay.”

Nearly 80 suspects have been identified over alleged war crimes on Ukrainian soil, she added.

Two Russian soldiers were jailed for 11 and a half years by a Ukrainian court on Tuesday for shelling civilian areas, while another was jailed for life earlier this month for murdering a civilian.

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, has joined the investigation team.

He said he was working towards opening an office in Ukraine “in the next few weeks” to have a more permanent base for its investigation.

Three more European countries — Latvia, Estonia and Slovakia — joined the international investigation team looking into war crimes in Ukraine on Tuesday.

Prosecutors from Poland, Lithuania and from the Hague-based International Criminal Court are already part of the team.

Lithuania's prosecutor general Nida Grunskiene (2nd L) Ukraine's top prosecutor Iryna Venediktova (C), International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan (2nd R) and Eurojust president Ladislav Hamran (R) at a press conference.  Reuters

“Today is a momentous day that the (team) has three new members,” ICC prosecutor Mr Khan said.

He warned that “no individual has a blank cheque to do what they want”.

“Ukraine is a crime scene and we will focus our resources and will keep going until justice is done,” he said.

The ICC earlier this month sent the largest team of investigators in the court's 20-year history to look at suspected war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.

Ms Venediktova said she hoped her country would handle “95 per cent” of cases but that some larger or more difficult ones could be dealt with by the ICC.

Russia's invasion and the subsequent discovery of hundreds of killings in places such as the Kyiv suburb of Bucha have prompted unprecedented international investigative efforts.

“Never in the history of armed conflict has the legal community responded with such determination,” Eurojust president Ladislav Hamran said.

Russia denies its troops are responsible for atrocities.

Its Defence Ministry said earlier this month that “not a single civilian has faced any violent action by the Russian military”.

Updated: May 31, 2022, 3:44 PM