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The Context of current developments
The context for the analysis of current developments in the Ukraine war is critically important to bear in mind at all times.
Russia, under the dictatorial leadership og Vladimir Putin, invaded Ukraine in February 2014 in flagrant violation of Article 2 paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter which prohibits the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.
This principle is the cornerstone of the United Nations Charter and the entire system of international law and institutions based on it.
After invading the Crimea, Russia purported to annex it in March 2014, and beginning in April 2014 began an invasion of the Donbas region of Ukraine comprised of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, first with irregular forces and then in August with regular Russian forces.
While the Minsk I and II protocols of September 5, 2014 and February 12, 2015 resulted in a tenuous ceasefire, some 14,000 people were killed before February 2022 as a result of Russia’s military invasion of the Donbas in 2014.
On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine in flagrant violation of the prohibition against the illegal use of force in Article 2 paragraph 4 of the U.N. Charter. This military aggression continues to the present day.
In the ensuing eight months Russian troops have committed and are committing war crimes on a massive scale, in a systematic pattern of crimes against humanity and acts of genocide as these are defined in the 1948 Convention on Genocide, to which Russia is a party.
These war crimes include the deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure, which are prohibited by the 1949 Hague Conventions on the Law of War and customary international law.
A bedrock principle of international humanitarian law (the law of war) is the prohibition against targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure.
Russia has deliberately violated this principle and continues to do so. Indeed, Russia’s entire strategy in the war appears to be based based on systematic violation of this principle.
Russian war crimes include the crime of aggression, or what was known at the Nuremberg Trials in 1946 as “Crimes Against Peace”, for which a number of the Nuremberg defendants were convicted.
Russian war crimes have included the targeted bombing of civilian apartment blocks, the summary execution of civilians, the kidnapping and torture of civilians, the systematic rape of Ukrainian women, the forced removal of Ukrainians and Ukrainian children to Russia, and the destruction of civilian electrical, water, and communications infrastructure.
As we discuss recent developments in the war, the fact that these war crimes against civilian targets–by missile and drone attacks throughout the country and involving summary execution, rape, and torture in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine–are continuing every day must be kept front and center in our minds.
Whenever we talk of Vladimir Putin, we should bear in mind that he is a war criminal with blood virtually dripping from his hands, who has just killed over 20 innocent civilians on this very day, together with a larger number of innocent Ukrainian soldiers who are engaged in exercising Ukraine’s inherent right of self-defense under international law and Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.
We should never forget that the Ukrainian soldiers who are being killed every day are also innocent victims of Russian aggression.
The current propaganda barrage by Russia regarding a “dirty bomb”, which it took to the U.N. Security Council yesterday, is a giant diversion from the war crimes Russian forces are committing every day, including since October 10 missile and drone attacks across Ukraine aimed at destroying the civilian electrical infrastructure, as well as water infrastructure that includes water-based heating systems (e.g., radiators).
Similarly, the Russians appear to have sabotaged the Nordstream I and II gas pipelines for purposes that include the distraction of Western government and media attention.
This is an old propaganda trick from the Russian playbook, which could be entitled, “Masters of Deceit”. This diversion also serves domestic propaganda purposes, drawing attention away from Russian military defeats on the battlefield in Kherson and the Donbas.
Since Russia often accuses Ukraine of doing what it itself intends to do, the propaganda could potentially be a smokescreen for Russia’s own use of a “dirty bomb”.
To date U.S. and Ukrainian officials have been very effective in uncovering and denouncing Russian false-flag and other escalatory operations.
We should focus, every day, on the military aggression Russia is committing and the war crimes it is committing against the people of Ukraine.
We should also fix firmly in our minds the image of Vladimir Putin with blood dripping from his hands as he kills 20 or more innocent civilians every day, together with a larger number of innocent Ukrainian soldiers.
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