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.

From killing, torture and plunder in Ukraine to teaching ‘patriotism’ in occupied Crimea and Russia

Halya Coynash
Russia is using men sent to fight its war against Ukraine to teach ‘patriotism’ and a wish to ‘defend’ the invading state on occupied Ukrainian territory

Russian soldier Radik Babasiev explaining to Russian students how they occupied and looted Ukrainian homes

Russian soldier Radik Babasiev explaining to Russian students how they occupied and looted Ukrainian homes

A Russian-controlled ‘pedagogical institute’ in occupied Crimea is running a special course for ‘veterans’ of Russia’s war against Ukraine to train as teachers.  It is unclear if there will be any entrance requirements aside from involvement in the fighting, or whether those men who were recruited as fighters while serving long sentences for murder, rape and other violent crimes, are also to be entrusted with teaching children.

The course is offered by the occupation ‘Crimean republican institute of postgraduate pedagogical education’ with graduates then “able to take part in the process of teaching and upbringing” in schools and various other educational institutions.  The dean of the institute, Aleksandr Rudakov did not merely use   Russia’s euphemistic terms ‘participants in the special military operation, veterans of military action’, but even claimed that these individuals are ‘defenders of the Fatherland’.  He did not clarify how soldiers of an invading army are supposed to be ‘defending’ their own country. 

The report may well have been prompted by Russian president Vladimir Putin’s claim, during his ‘news conference’ on 14 December, that such individuals are “enormously needed” in the process of bringing up children and young people.  Putin asserted that over a thousand former fighters are now working in schools and organized groups of children and teenagers, and said that they would be extending such “work”. 

It is to be hoped that prosecutors at the International Criminal Court are following this, as Putin was, yet again, confirming direct involvement in activities that may well constitute a war crime.  Russia’s use of fighters, some of whom have effectively boasted to schoolchildren of war crimes against Ukrainian civilians, is an aspect of the aggressive militarization which the aggressor state is forcing upon Ukrainian children on occupied territory. 

This militarization dates back to 2014, however any final subterfuge was discarded in February 2024.  The Russian invaders are now actively indoctrinating children on invaded territory, and trying to brainwash them into believing that their bombed and devastated cities were ‘liberated’ and into wanting to fight for the aggressor state.

Such forcible militarization of Ukrainian children living in occupied areas was recently reported by the authoritative Institute for the Study of War.  Their report, on 25 October 2023, was published on the day that the Russian Kherson oblast occupation administration posted a propaganda piece about twelve schoolchildren from occupied Skadovsk who had become military cadets.  The invading power’s administration stated that Ukrainian children “had made solemn vows to prepare themselves to serve the Fatherland, to love and respect it, to persistently acquire knowledge and devote their efforts and knowledge gain to strengthen the might of the Russian state.”

Ukrainian children (as well as Russian, since this is also policy within the Russian Federation) are being encouraged to treat as role models men who, at best, are part of an invading army, at worst, war criminals. 

In February 2023, for example, while talking to a class of secondary school students, Russian soldier Radik Babasiev openly admitted that he and other soldiers had seized Ukrainian civilians’ homes, eaten their food, etc., all of which constitutes looting, a war crime.  He was reticent only about the rampant plundering of whatever could be stolen for which the soldiers who invaded Kyiv oblast and who were later honoured’ by Putin are notorious.  There is considerable evidence of such looting, including the videoed records published by courageous Belarusian activists, however by no means all Russian fighters even see the need to conceal such behaviour.  Neo-Nazi sadist Aleksei Milchakov, for example, first fought as a mercenary in Ukraine back in 2014-2015.  It is not clear in what official capacity he returned to fight after Russia’s full-scale invasion, but he claims that this is “once again liberated territory” and openly admits to having a fridge, a washing machine and a toilet” which he “certainly didn’t buy”.

Milchakov, and his comrade Jan Petrovsky, both wanted by Ukraine for war crimes, were also used for training young people at so-called ‘patriotic camps’ in Russia.  Before Russia’s open invasion of Ukraine, there was active glorification, both in occupied Donbas, and in Russia, of equally notorious killers like Russian mercenary Arsen Pavlov (‘Motorola’).  Whether or not such individuals, or members of the Wagner Unit or convicted criminals recruited to fight in Ukraine, are let loose on schools remains to be seen.  There is, in theory, nothing to stop this happening.  Convicted prisoners, for example, receive a pardon from Putin and their slate wiped clean.  Wagner Unit fighters and others like them are also protected under one of the draconian silencing laws, which punishes those deemed to have ‘discredited them’.  Unfortunately many teachers, school heads and journalists are likely to think twice before testing whether saying that such fighters are not fit to work in a school will be deemed to have ‘discredited a participant’ of Russia’s war against Ukraine.  

There is, certainly, at least one Wagner Unit mercenary among 60 or more participants in Russia’s war who were killed in Ukraine and who have since had schools named after them.

Some of these individuals are glorified in the ‘history textbooks’ full of historical distortions and lies about Russia’s war which are to be used with senior school students at least in occupied Crimea from September 2024. 

See: Ukraine ‘began the war against Russia’ in Moscow’s official school history textbook

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