The Russians have been accused of committing numerous alleged war crimes against soldiers and civilians throughout its invasion of Ukraine that began in February, but they may not be alone when it comes to such atrocities in violation of international laws and norms.
Now a top Ukrainian official has essentially admitted to potential war crimes in the form of extrajudicial executions of alleged Ukrainian “collaborators” as “retribution” for any assistance provided to the Russian invaders, Breitbart reported.
That should be a major concern for President Joe Biden’s White House, given its repeatedly stated full and complete support for Ukraine and its resistance to Russian occupation.
Ukraine “eliminating” some collaborators, “shooting them like pigs”
The Daily Mail reported this week that, as the Ukrainian counteroffensive liberates parts of the besieged country from the Russian invaders, both official and unofficial efforts are underway to exact revenge or seek accountability against fellow Ukrainians alleged to have collaborated with or otherwise aided the hostile invading force.
The outlet reported that there have been at least 29 “retribution killings,” plus 13 more attempted assassinations, as well as at least another 29 “suspicious killings” of Ukrainian civilians accused of being collaborators — and those extrajudicial acts without due process appear to have been encouraged and endorsed by the government in Kyiv, with one unnamed official referring to alleged collaborators as “losers” who exploited the Russian invasion for their own benefit.
“A hunt has been declared on collaborators and their life is not protected by law,” Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko told the Daily Mail. “Our intelligence services are eliminating them, shooting them like pigs.”
Investigations, arrests, and prosecutions
Those remarks from Gerashchenko seem to align with comments in August from National Security and Defense Council Sec. Oleksiy Danilov, according to Ukrinform, who told a local radio station of efforts to find and expose and purge from society any and all “traitors” in Ukraine.
“If I could have the opportunity to check all of our country’s citizens for involvement in cooperation with the Russian Federation, I would definitely do it, because this is a very dangerous situation. And it doesn’t matter where those moles are today. We need to find and ‘poison’ these rats. We need to ensure that none of them remain on our territory,” Danilov said. “This is a matter of our national security. And their presence in any agencies is very, very dangerous. Why? Because the Russian Federation does not give up hope of achieving its main goal — to destroy us as a state.”
To be sure, unlike Gerashchenko’s blunt acknowledgment of extrajudicial killings of alleged collaborators, Danilov could have been referencing legitimate arrests and prosecutions, of which there have been many thus far. The Daily Mail reported that at least 1,309 investigations into “suspected traitors” have been launched with at least 450 prosecutions.
That again tracks with a Ukrinform report from September in which Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigation announced that it had 881 ongoing investigations into alleged collaborators and traitors, including 733 “criminal proceedings” for crimes like “high treason,” “collaborative activities,” and “aiding and abetting the aggressor state” — and had served notice, placed on a wanted list, or were actively monitoring another roughly 1,600 individuals.
Potential war crimes violations
The investigations, arrests, and prosecutions aside, Breitbart noted that the admitted extrajudicial executions of alleged collaborators may be in violation of certain provisions within the United Nations’ rules against war crimes that are aimed at protecting civilians and non-combatants.
That said, there is a debate over whether those rules fully apply to collaborators and traitors, and Ukraine is actually not a signatory to those rules, though that may not actually matter as the international norms as applied to wartime conduct are generally regarded as “peremptory” over any individual nation.