Abominable war crimes must be denounced

Russia is expanding its attacks on civilians as it continues its invasion of Ukraine. This is a grave war crime. The international community must denounce Russia and ensure that it faces consequences.

Russian forces have surrounded the southeastern Ukraine city of Mariupol since the beginning of March and have attacked the city daily. The city center has been destroyed, including a theater and a school used as shelters, leaving many people dead, wounded or buried alive in the rubble. A pregnant woman and her baby died in attacks on a maternity hospital.

The port city of Mariupol is a strategic point, connecting the Russian-controlled eastern region and the already annexed Crimean Peninsula. Of its original population of 400,000 people, more than 100,000 are said to remain trapped.

Water and food supplies are cut off, and communications and electricity have become sporadic. Most adult men have been mobilized for defense, and the majority of the casualties and those left behind are the elderly, women and children.

The fear felt by the people whose lives are in danger is unimaginable. It is heartbreaking to see the number of victims increasing every day as no measures are taken for safe evacuations.

The regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeated such attacks without hesitating to kill and injure civilians in the past.

During its intervention in the Syrian civil war, Russian forces helped the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad in encircling and suppressing antigovernment strongholds. Residents were uniformly regarded as “extremists” and harshly put down. Russia’s attacks leveled cities in the Chechen conflict, in which Russia eliminated separatists.

It can be called a common method in “Putin’s wars” to increase civilian losses through cruel and indiscriminate attacks, in a bid to sap the opponents’ will to fight and force them to surrender.

The Ukrainian people are tenaciously resisting because they surely understand that even if there is a truce agreement, the repression of the people will continue and peace will not return — as happened in Syria.

It is clear that Russia’s actions violate international humanitarian law, which prohibits attacks on noncombatants. The U.S. government has determined that “members of Russia’s forces have committed war crimes.” Prosecutors of the International Criminal Court, which handles war crimes, have also launched an investigation.

At an emergency special session of the U.N. General Assembly, a resolution expressing regret for the terrible humanitarian situation caused by Russia, and calling for an immediate halt to the fighting and for civilians to be protected, was adopted by an overwhelming majority vote. Although it is not legally binding, the resolution is significant because it called out Russia’s inhumanity as international public opinion.

An estimated 12 million people have not been able to evacuate from dangerous areas in Ukraine. The only way to save people from this humanitarian crisis is to increase pressure on Putin, through sanctions against Russia and other measures.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 27, 2022)