On September 23, a United Nations-appointed panel of independent experts released a statement concluding that Russian Federation forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine, an announcement that follows an earlier U.S. Government assessment, released in March. In the 27 towns and settlements they visited, the UN-appointed panel saw the remnants of torture and executions and documented evidence of sexual and gender-based violence, including rape, based on testimonies from brave survivors, government officials, and other witnesses. While inspecting mass graves, they also found that the Russian Federation perpetrated many of these atrocities against children and the elderly.
Since Putin launched his unjustified full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin has spuriously claimed Russian forces were liberating the Ukrainian people, while in reality committing war crimes against the country’s civilians. In Bucha and Irpin, retreating Russian forces left behind hundreds of bodies of innocent civilians in the streets, and Ukrainian women bravely came forward to tell of the abuse and sexual violence they experienced. And in just the last week, 440 bodies of men, women, and children were exhumed from mass graves in Izyum. In such a short time, Putin and his army have committed atrocities against the Ukrainian people that will leave voids and scars for generations. And sadly, we continue to hear even more harrowing stories from innumerable Ukrainians across the country who themselves have been victims of, or witness to, interrogations, detainments, torture, and forcible deportations to remote areas of Russia.
As President Biden said just a few days ago to the UN General Assembly, “this war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state, plain and simple, and Ukraine’s right to exist as a people.” The world must unite against the Kremlin’s shameless inhumanity and hold those responsible for these atrocities accountable.
At USAID, we will continue working with the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian civil society to document Russia’s human rights abuses. With our support, these organizations have already documented more than 15,000 incidents, and handed over their evidence to authorities for further investigation. As Putin prolongs his invasion, we will continue this vital work so that the Ukrainian people can one day seek the justice they deserve.