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.

After destroying Mariupol, Russia offers its victims money but only if they agree to blame Ukraine

Halya Coynash
Mariupol after Russian bombing of a children’s and maternity hospital on 9 March 2022 Photo from the Ukrainian military, posted by Reuters

The Mariupol city authorities have learned of yet another attempt by Russia to blame Ukraine for the carnage and devastation the world has witnessed Russian inflicting upon the Ukrainian port city.  The move, if true, is especially cynical as Russia is offering people whose lives it has destroyed ‘compensation’, but only if they write that Ukrainian soldiers were behind the destruction.

On 16 May, Petro Andriushchenko, Advisor to the Mayor of Mariupol, reported the plan to get ‘written testimony’ claiming that Mariupol was destroyed by Ukrainian soldiers.  Residents of the city still remained would have to write these by hand.

Andriushchenko  explains that the Russian invaders have announced ‘registration for compensation’.  This envisages a payment of 500 thousand roubles (around 6 thousand USD) for the destruction of their homes, and 3 million roubles (around 33 thousand USD) for the death of a family member.

Applications for such ‘compensation’ are registered in School No. 9.  The catch is, of course, that, in order to get the money, the Mariupol residents must write that their property “was destroyed by Ukrainian military” and their family members “were killed by the Ukrainian Army”. 

Andriushchenko  says that, given the psychological pressure that people are under, and the total information blockade that Russia has imposed on the city, people are providing these entirely false statements.  This will get the aggressor state tens of thousand pieces of supposedly handwritten ‘testimony’ claiming “atrocities by the Ukrainian Army”.   The aim is to influence international opinion, via propaganda channels, Andriushchenko  writes, adding that such compensation is impossible because this would mean that Russia would have to pay at least two and a half million USD. 

It is, in fact, likely that Russia spends vastly more than that of its propaganda efforts worldwide, and would not necessarily have problems paying the amounts.  Whether they would hold to their part of the effective bribe, once the written lies had been obtained is another matter.

On 14 May, Andriushchenko  reported another “major disinformation attack” that the Russians were allegedly planning. This time, they were using the parents of children who had been deported to Russia or to the proxy Russian ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ [‘DPR]]. 

By threatening to take the children away forever, Russia is forcing the parents to make videos in which they supposedly ‘testify’ that the parents were separated from their children by Ukrainian Azov Battalion soldiers and “military nationalists of Ukraine”, whatever that is supposed to mean.  A second ‘series’ is apparently planned with the children “found and returned to their parents”.

None of this, unfortunately, is new.  Russia has besieged Mariupol since virtually the beginning of its total invasion of Ukraine and has systematically destroyed the city’s infrastructure, while preventing residents from leaving for Ukrainian cities.  It has deliberately created an information blockade while also engaging in propaganda stunts in which the Russian invaders are supposed to be ‘liberators’ and bearers of humanitarian aid.

It is very clearly placing Mariupol residents forcibly deported either to ‘DPR’ or to Russia under enormous pressure, including through threats of prosecution if they do not provide the videos blaming Ukraine for Russia’s crimes.

One such example was the video showed on most Russian state-controlled channels on 23 March, two weeks after the Russians bombed a children’s and maternity hospital in Mariupol, killing at least five people, including a pregnant woman and her unborn child.  It should be remembered that Russia uses many, quite contradictory, lies.  Two days after the airstrike, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov did not deny that Russia was behind it, but simply claimed, against all evidence, that the hospital had been commandeered by Azov fighters and was not functioning as a hospital.

Two weeks later, however, Russian TV showed a young Ukrainian from Mariupol, Lyubov Ustinova, in which she repeated the Kremlin’s lies, claiming, for example, that the hospital had been bombed by Ukrainian soldiers.  

The Russian independent MediaZona carried out an investigation which found that the videos with Ustinova had been produced by Russia’s Security Service, or FSB, with state media sent the videos and instructed not to divulge their source. 

On 3 April, Associated Press reported on a new attempt at such propaganda, which effectively tried to place in question huge amounts of video and photographic evidence of the attack by an AP reporter.  The article explains that “A Ukrainian beauty blogger whom Russian officials accused of being a crisis actor when she was interviewed and photographed by The Associated Press in a bombed out Mariupol maternity hospital has emerged in new videos that are fuelling fresh misinformation about the attack.”’ 

“Russian officials have repeatedly tried to cast doubt on the strike in Mariupol, a key military objective for Moscow, since images were seen around the world and shed light on Russia’s attacks on civilians in Ukraine.”   The article, which clearly exposes the misinformation, can be read here.  

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