The restrained position of the UN: the actions of the Russian occupiers are war crimes, but not genocide


The independent international commission of inquiry into the events in Ukraine, acting under the leadership of the UN, found no evidence of genocide after the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation. According to the commission, the mass extermination of Ukrainians in Irpin, Bucha, and other settlements cannot be qualified as of today, that is, there is insufficient evidence of the national direction of these murders.


Mass murders of Ukrainians – is it not genocide?

Thousands of people from different cities buried in mass graves, many of them with traces of torture, are not a genocide of Ukrainians. This is the opinion of the head of the relevant UN commission, Eric Møse, writes The Guardian.

Erik Møse is a Norwegian judge. Møse has been a judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Supreme Court of Norway, and the European Court of Human Rights. Now he is Human Rights Expert Member of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine

At the same time, the investigator carefully notes that there are «some aspects that may raise the question of a possible genocide.» Of course, in such an important matter, one would like more concreteness and less diplomacy, but Mese decided to choose a very cautious position.

Exhumation of the bodies of victims of Russian aggression

At the same time, the commission’s report indicated that the Russian authorities committed a wide range of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law in various areas, many of which qualify as war crimes.

In particular, war crimes include attacks on civilians and energy infrastructure facilities, intentional killings, illegal deprivation of liberty, torture, rape, and other types of sexual violence, as well as the illegal transfer and deportation of children.

Thousands of children were taken from the territory of Ukraine by Russian invaders

The report also states that the waves of attacks by the Russian Federation on the energy infrastructure of Ukraine from October 10, 2022, can be equated to crimes against humanity.

It is noted that to prepare the report, the Commission visited 56 settlements and interviewed 348 women and 247 men. The Commission’s investigators inspected the sites of destruction, burials, places of detention and torture, as well as the remains of weapons, having read a large number of documents and reports.


Why is the genocide not recorded and does this issue have a further international legal perspective?

Let’s try to find out why the commission for the investigation of crimes in Ukraine chose such a shy position, unlike, for example, American congressmen. Let’s start with the generally accepted definition:

«Genocide is purposeful actions aimed at the complete or partial destruction of population groups or nations based on national, ethnic, racial or religious motives.»

Were the murders in occupied settlements purposeful actions? Obviously so. People were tortured, killed, and buried in mass graves. Did these murders have a national direction? Of course, yes. Criminals from the army of the aggressor country were prepared for this for many years. In particular, the PACE recognized: at the official level, Russian soldiers are calling for the genocide of Ukrainians. What can we say, for example, about the federal channels, which constantly call for a nuclear attack on Ukraine in direct text, without choosing words? And the many conversations of the Russian military intercepted by the SBU indicate that they came here to eliminate Ukrainians as a nation.

Vadym Oksyuta, lawyer and human rights defender

Why did the commission not classify the actions of Russian war criminals as genocide in the report? There are several nuances here. The well-known Ukrainian lawyer and human rights defender Vadym Oksyuta believe that the process of gathering evidence is currently ongoing:

«Today, there is an interim decision that there is not enough evidence to conclude that genocide took place. This is not a final decision. Ukraine must provide evidence.

Genocide is a complex crime. This is not a single event, it is systemic, large-scale, and most importantly — the intention to destroy the Ukrainian people, and the nation. Ukraine will provide evidence and I hope that the world bureaucracy will come to the conclusion that genocide took place because that is exactly how it is.»

It is hard to disagree with Vadym, but UN representatives of this level should understand the weight of every word when it comes to the killing of thousands of civilians. And to note that there is currently no evidence of genocide when a huge number of Ukrainians saw what the aggressor committed means to cause at least complete misunderstanding in them.

Taras Goncharuk, historisn, professor, and doctor of historical sciences of the Ilya Mechnikov Odesa National University

Taras Goncharuk, an expert in the field of history, professor, and doctor of historical sciences of the Ilya Mechnikov Odesa National University believes that the evidence of genocide is sufficient and the appropriate decision must be made:

«If today there are thousands of testimonies, colossal victims have been confirmed, there are photo and video evidence that is clearly not faked, then, in my opinion, the UN commission should recognize these crimes as genocide. For me, as a historian, this is a strange situation, because there are too many different testimonies. Well, let’s wait for a fair decision.»

Charles Ellis Schumer, politician serving as the senior United States senator from New York

The position of Ukrainians on the issue of genocide is completely and completely shared by the American congressman, Senator Charles E. Schumer, whom «the Ukrainian Review» addressed:

«I strongly believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin must absolutely be held accountable for the detestable, despicable war crimes he is committing against Ukraine. The images we have seen coming out of Ukraine, and especially out of the town of Bucha, are pure evil. Furthermore, the images we have seen-of defenseless men, women, children, and the elderly murdered in cold blood for the sole reason of their Ukrainian nationality all point towards the conclusion that President Putin’s war is a genocide against Ukrainians. While President Putin may disagree and the Kremlin may spread lies and disinformation among his people, it does not detract from the undeniable facts: when innocent civilians are murdered because of who they are, whether it be their religion, race, or nationality, that is genocide-and President Putin is guilty of it.»



We would like to hope that the collection of evidence is really ongoing and the issue of recognizing the genocide is still ahead. But it is necessary to properly inform the public about this, given the great sensitivity of the issue. It remains to wait for an obvious solution for everyone, although in reality, it would be very symbolic to record the genocide and the background of the decision of the International Criminal Court in The Hague and the issuance of a warrant for the arrest of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and the Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova.


Kostyantyn Grechany

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