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.

Russian Investigators work in sync with media on ’mass grave’ campaign

Halya Coynash 
Western journalists have exposed gross distortions in Russian media coverage of supposed ‘mass graves’ in the Donetsk oblast, but should note more ‘irrefutable evidence’, including a real live ‘war criminal’. from Russia’s Investigative Committee before assuming the media are behind the sensation

Western journalists have fortunately exposed gross distortions in Russian media coverage of supposed ‘mass graves’ in the Donetsk oblast.  They should, however, note more ‘irrefutable evidence’, including a real live ‘war criminal’. from Russia’s Investigative Committee before assuming it was the media who prompted Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov to claim 400 bodies had been found.  

As reported, Russia’s foreign ministry was cautious about numbers in its statement on Sept 24, the day after OSCE officials reported seeing a total of 4 bodies and an apparent grave with 5 names.  It was in no doubt, however, before any investigation had been undertaken, that war crimes were involved, committed by Ukrainian soldiers. 

By Oct 1, the message from Lavrov was unequivocal. The graves contained 400 bodies and “this is obviously a war crime …. and we hope that western capitals will not hush up these facts [because] they’re horrific.” 

Commissioned ‘mass graves’

Those who follow the Russian media are aware how closely its coverage is fine-tuned with foreign policy moves.  When decisions on sanctions loom, a mellower approach can be found, or the whole conflict is largely ignored for a day or two. In this case, with the cry of ‘war crimes’ coming straight from the foreign ministry, it was clear that no restraint should be applied in the ‘mass grave’ campaign  Any denials – or exposures of downright lies - could be brushed off, in Lavrov style, as western attempts to muffle ‘the truth’.   

The OSCE statement on Sept 23, effectively refuting all wild accusations of tortured and raped victims was such a sensation-killer, that the media presented their own supposed member of an OSCE-sent team of international monitors.  They were caught out since Latvian pro-Russian activist Einars Graudins, did visit the scene but has nothing to do with the OSCE, as a spokesperson for the organization told journalists.

Even should the TV channels or newspapers which came out with the most outrageous lies now update information, mentioning, for example, that the 400 figure refers to people in Donetsk morgues and that even the militants have said there are 9 bodies, this will have little effect on audiences fed virulent hate speech for the last week.

On Sunday evening, TV Rossiya’s weekly review Vesti Nedeli programme with propaganda chief Dmitry Kiselyov included the following:

Mass graves of victims of the Ukrainian butchers in Donbas: the soldiers raped and shot their victims where they were drinking and sleeping.  The National Guard is full of Bandera-supporters and sadists.  This is a shock for all willing to view facts impartially. A shock since it is hard to comprehend that such a thing is possible now and in Europe, a little west of the Rostov oblast.

In pits with hands tied behind their backs with scotch tape – our brothers and sisters, shot by butchers. We say: war crime .”

Russia’s Investigative Committee is also in no doubt, and even hauls out a ‘witness’.  Since IC spokesperson Vladimir Markin is clearly peeved that his recent foray into charges of genocide, specifically of Russian-speakers, was  viewed with amused skepticism, this time we leave him to speak for himself.

The Russian-speaking population is an ethnic group living in large numbers on the territory of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics. ….

There were no less than eight dead today in Donetsk – the latest victims confirming the deliberate destruction of the civilian population. Their fault is only that they spoke Russian and did not wish to descend into nationalistic hysteria and allow fascist ideology into their native land….

The recently discovered mass graves outside Donetsk are yet more telling evidence of the atrocities of Ukrainian nationalists. All victims before being murdered were subjected to torture and torment.  And for those in any doubt as to who is responsible for these murders, the Investigative Committee has irrefutable proof in the form of testimony from witnesses and the relevant examination results which directly point to the crime having been committed by fighters from the National Guard and Right Sector.  On the testimony of a teenager whom they threatened into telling them who was among the militants, or could support them, these people were simply killed without trial and investigation, having first been subjected to torture. Moreover the nature and style of the murders committed by fighters of the National Guard and Right Sector are like other similar crimes which rank-and-file soldier of the Dnipro Battalion Sergei Litvinov described in detail in his testimony.  I would like to immediately calm those who will try to blame us for bringing him by force to another country, that this person himself arrived on Russian territory pretending to be a civilian in order to enter one of the hospitals in the Rostov oblast. At the present time Litvinov has already been arrested and will shortly be sent to Moscow for a psychological – psychiatric assessment. According to Litvinov’s testimony, he “personally committed murders of civilians not taking part in the military conflict, including women and children, living in the townships of Melove, Shyroky, Makarovo and Kamyshne, on the basis purely of anonymous denunciations”.  And what is most interesting, for the murders this fighter received remuneration issued by his headquarters from Ihor Kolomoisky’s funds.”

Markin is certainly on the defensive, although why he thinks doubters would be reassured by his claim that Litvinov himself passed into Russia is less clear.  This, after all, is the story the same Investigative Committee is pushing with respect to Nadiya Savchenko.  The Ukrainian officer initially captured by Kremlin-backed militants, has consistently rejected such claims and says she was taken to Russia by force.

Markin may be feeling more confident this time that his ’witness’ will oblige and is most unlikely to be deterred by Anton Herashchenko, adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Minister  saying that no Serhiy Litvinov was ever in the Dnipro Battalion.

There is no indication of the numbers involved aside from the conveniently vague ‘mass graves’. After interviews with dodgy ‘experts’ and photos of MH17 victims presented as victims of ‘mass graves’, the Russian media can be relied on for sensation back-up. 

Their script, however, is coming from elsewhere. 

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