war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Kremlin-backed militants introduce ‘death penalty’ and ‘military tribunals’


The self-proclaimed Donetsk people’s republic has introduced its own ‘criminal code’, based on that of the Russian Federation. It includes the death penalty for particularly grave crimes.  In a second resolution passed by the so-called DPR ‘Council of Minsters’ on Aug 17, military courts and a system of military justice were introduced. 

According to Edward Yakubovsky, acting ‘prosecutor general’, “It’s no secret that there are soldiers who are committing crimes. There are cases of looting, the use of violence”. 

It is certainly no secret though which crimes are actually envisaged by this DPR innovation would be difficult to say.  There are extremely good grounds for believing that the Kremlin-backed militants from DPR were responsible for the savage murders of Horlivka deputy Volodymyr Rybak, 19-year-old student Yury Popravko, one other 25-year-old student, four members of a Slovyansk evangelical church and others. 

There have been harrowing tales of torture and ill-treatment from journalists, priests, and simply ordinary citizens whom the militants held hostage.

Even the supposed wish to fight looting warrants scepticism.  At the end of July the so-called ‘defence minister’ at the time, Russian Igor Girkin [Strelkov] issued an ‘order’ which allowed the DPR to appropriate vehicles; building material; food; medical equipment and other items.

With respect to the resolution introducing the death penalty, Vladimir Antyufeyev, the Russian former security chief of the pro-Russian breakaway Transdnistria and since July first deputy prime minister of DPR,  called it “the highest degree of social defence”.   “The demand of the people”, he claimed, is to “put an end to criminal activities” for which radical measures were required.  Another ‘prime minister’, Alexander Karaman promised that after the war they would ‘humanize’ their criminal legislation.

According to Alexander Zakharchenko, who recently replaced Russian Alexander Borodai as ‘prime minister’, the measures will serve as a deterrent.  

With looting and violence an everyday occurrence, and especially given the above-mentioned ‘order’, it is difficult to imagine how – and if – the death penalty – and military courts – could be used against such ills.  They may be intended as a response to the powers proposed for Ukraine’s law enforcement bodies in fighting terrorism.  Or, of course, they could  be intended as a warning to militants tempted to flee, as the Ukrainian army gets closer and closer.

Halya Coynash  
 Share this