Opinion

Eugene Czolij: Russia is committing genocide in Ukraine

Relatives of Mykhailo Romaniuk, 58, who was shot dead on his bicycle on March 6, help to bury his coffin at a cemetery in Bucha, on April 19, 2022, during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. ((AFP/Getty Images)

On 14 April 2022, the Ukrainian Parliament adopted a declaration on the genocide committed by Russia in Ukraine.

Can the atrocities committed by Russia in Ukraine since 24 February 2022 be really called “genocide”?

Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, also known as the Genocide Convention, stipulates that:

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: 

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

On 16 March 2022, the International Court of Justice in the Hague rendered an interim judgment in the case of Ukraine v. Russian Federation, declaring first that “Ukraine and the Russian Federation are both parties to the Genocide Convention” and then stating:

The Court considers that the civilian population affected by the present conflict is extremely vulnerable. The “special military operation” being conducted by the Russian Federation has resulted in numerous civilian deaths and injuries. It has also caused significant material damage, including the destruction of buildings and infrastructure. Attacks are ongoing and are creating increasingly difficult living conditions for the civilian population. Many persons have no access to the most basic foodstuffs, potable water, electricity, essential medicines or heating. A very large number of people are attempting to flee from the most affected cities under extremely insecure conditions.

On that basis, the International Court of Justice indicated some provisional measures, including that:

The Russian Federation shall immediately suspend the military operations that it commenced on 24 February 2022 in the territory of Ukraine.”

Russia blatantly violates this judgment of the International Court of Justice as Russian forces relentlessly pursue their vicious bombardments of the civilian population and infrastructure of Ukraine, including hospitals and schools, and commits countless war crimes by killing, raping, torturing and starving Ukraine’s civilian population and forcibly deporting children from the Donbas region to Russia. One only needs to recall the horrific images from Bucha, Irpin, Kramatorsk and Mariupol.

On 12 April 2022, President Joe Biden told the American people:

Your family budget, your ability to fill up your tank, none of it should hinge on whether a dictator declares war and commits genocide a half a world away.”

That was the first time since Russia launched its genocidal war against Ukraine that the President of the United States has stated that the atrocities being uncovered in Ukraine qualify as “genocide.” 

The U.S. President later explained that:

I called it genocide because it’s become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out even the idea of being Ukrainian. The evidence is mounting.”

Russian authorities and forces are indeed trying to wipe out even the idea of being Ukrainian, which stems from Putin’s denial of the very existence of the Ukrainian people as a whole.

For instance, on 12 July 2021, in an article titled “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians,” Putin wrote:

“[…] when I was asked about Russian-Ukrainian relations, I said that Russians and Ukrainians were one people – a single whole. These words were not driven by some short-term considerations or prompted by the current political context. It is what I have said on numerous occasions and what I firmly believe.”

Incredibly, according to Putin’s version of history: 

The name “Ukraine” was used more often in the meaning of the Old Russian word “okraina” (periphery), […], referring to various border territories. And the word “Ukrainian”, […], originally referred to frontier guards who protected the external borders.”

Putin and the Kremlin are obviously aware of the atrocities being committed against the Ukrainian people and, by their conduct, endorse such acts of savagery and ensure that the Russian forces perpetuate them.

This damning evidence demonstrates that Russia is committing acts with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, the Ukrainian people.

And that is “genocide”, according to the UN Genocide Convention.

The international community must recognize this genocide and respond accordingly.

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