EU presidency calls for international tribunal for Russian war crimes

EU calls for international war crimes tribunal to prosecute Russia after discovery of mass graves in Ukraine as MoD warns Putin’s forces are increasing missile attacks on civilian targets to try and ‘undermine morale’

  • Czech foreign minister called for a special tribunal in wake of latest crimes
  • ‘In the 21st century, such attacks against civilians are unthinkable,’ he said
  • The Czech Republic which holds the European Union’s rotating presidency
  • Appeal follows discovery of around 450 graves near liberated city of Izyum
  • Zelensky and other officials said there was mounting evidence of torture 

An international tribunal for Russian war crimes must be established after new mass graves were found in Ukraine earlier this week, the EU presidency has declared.

‘In the 21st century, such attacks against the civilian population are unthinkable and abhorrent,’ said Jan Lipavsky, foreign minister of the Czech Republic which holds the European Union’s rotating presidency.

‘We must not overlook it. We stand for the punishment of all war criminals… I call for the speedy establishment of a special international tribunal that will prosecute the crime of aggression,’ he announced.

The appeal follows the discovery of around 450 graves outside the recently liberated city of Izyum in Ukraine’s eastern Kharkiv region.

Some of the exhumed bodies showed signs of torture and authorities have uncovered several buildings which appear to have been used as torture chambers by Russian soldiers and FSB agents.

‘More than 10 torture chambers have already been found in various cities and towns liberated in Kharkiv region,’ Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky last night, describing the discovery of electrical implements for torture.

‘That’s what the Nazis did. This is what Ruscists do. And they will be held accountable in the same way – both on the battlefield and in courtrooms,’ he promised.

It comes as a British Ministry of Defence (MoD) intelligence update claimed that Moscow has stepped up its rocket attacks on civilian infrastructure as its troops flee from the Kharkiv region.

Forensic technicians dig a grave in a forest on the outskirts of Izyum, eastern Ukraine on September 16, 2022

Ukrainian officials have uncovered 450 new graves at just one burial site near Izyum after recapturing the eastern city from the Russians last weekend

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky has called for a special international tribunal to prosecute Russian war crimes in Ukraine. ‘In the 21st century, such attacks against the civilian population are unthinkable and abhorrent,’ he said

Flimsy wooden crosses are seen at a burial site in a forest on the outskirts of Izyum, on September 17, 2022

Zelensky paid a surprise visit to Izyum in Kharkiv region after the city was recaptured and witnessed the devastation left behind by the retreating Russian forces

This photograph taken on September 14, 2022 shows a destroyed Russian tank and armoured personnel carriers on the outskirts of Izyum, Kharkiv Region, eastern Ukraine

Head of Kharkiv regional administration Oleg Synegubov said yesterday that ’99 per cent of bodies that were exhumed showed signs of a violent death’. 

‘There are several bodies with their hands tied behind their backs, and one person is buried with a rope around his neck,’ Synegubov told readers on the Telegram messaging app.

The Ukrainian parliament’s human rights commissioner, Dmytro Lubinets, said there were ‘probably more than 1,000 Ukrainian citizens tortured and killed in the liberated territories of the Kharkiv region’, though this number has not yet been verified. 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the mass graves likely provided more evidence that Russia is committing war crimes Ukraine, while French President Emmanuel Macron described what had happened in Izyum as ‘atrocities’.

The United Nations in Geneva has said it hopes to send a team to determine the circumstances of the deaths, much like it did roughly five months ago after the Russian army, driven out of Bucha near the capital Kyiv, left behind hundreds of corpses of civilians. 

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen confirmed earlier this week she wanted Russian President Vladimir Putin to face the International Criminal Court over war crimes in Ukraine. 

Meanwhile, the British MoD claimed in its latest intelligence updated that Russia has increased its rocket attacks on civilian infrastructure this past week, likely in an attempt to undermine the morale of Ukrainian citizens and local governments even as Putin’s forces retreat from Kharkiv.

‘Russia has launched several thousand long-range missiles against Ukraine since 24 February 2022. However, in the last seven days, Russia has increased its targeting of civilian infrastructure even where it probably perceives no immediate military effect,’ the update read.

‘As it faces setbacks on the front lines, Russia has likely extended the locations it is prepared to strike in an attempt to directly undermine the morale of the Ukrainian people and government.’

President Putin however denied that his forces had been routed in eastern Ukraine and yesterday claimed his troops were continuing to take territory in the Donbas while speaking at a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Uzbekistan.

Pictured: A destroyed Russian MT-LB armoured personnel carrier burning in a field on the outskirts of Izyum

Vladimir Putin, speaking after a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Uzbekistan, said his Donbas offensive is still ‘moving forwards’ after recent humiliating defeats in the Kharkiv region

The MoD claimed in its latest intelligence updated that Russia has increased its rocket attacks on civilian infrastructure this past week in an attempt to undermine the morale of Ukrainian citizens

‘Our offensive operation in the Donbas is not stopping. They’re moving forward – not at a very fast pace – but they are gradually taking more and more territory,’ Putin said, in what were his first comments since his army collapsed and fled from the Kharkiv region of Ukraine last weekend.

On Friday, a smiling Putin warned of a ‘more serious’ response if the Ukrainian counterattacks continue to gain ground.

‘The Kyiv authorities have announced that they have started an active counter-offensive operation. We’ll see how it goes and how it ends,’ he said with a smirk in the Uzbek capital of Samarkand. 

In light of the threat, US President Biden warned Putin to avoid using nuclear weapons as his forces are beaten back in Ukraine or face ‘consequences.’

In a preview for this Sunday’s 60 Minutes, interviewer Scott Pelley asked the president what words he would have for his Russian counterpart if he is considering using chemical or tactical nuclear weapons in the Ukraine. 

Biden responded: ‘Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. You will change the face of war unlike anything since World War II.’

When Pelley pushed the president for America’s response should Putin cross the line, Biden declined to comment on a specific plan, only saying that the US would act if nuclear weapons are put into play. 

‘It’ll be consequential,’ Biden said. ‘[Russia] will become more of a pariah in the world than they ever have been.’

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