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The Guardian: War crimes dossier to accuse Russia of using hunger as weapon of war

by Dinara Khalilova and The Kyiv Independent news desk September 25, 2023 10:17 AM 3 min read
An elderly woman receives bread at a humanitarian aid distribution point in Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast, on Dec. 24, 2022. (Andriy Andriyenko/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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Human rights lawyers and Ukrainian prosecutors are preparing a war crimes dossier to submit to the International Criminal Court (ICC) accusing Russia of intentionally causing starvation during the full-scale war in Ukraine, the Guardian reported on Sept. 24.

The goal is to document cases of Russian forces using hunger as a weapon of war, collecting evidence for the ICC to launch this first-of-its-kind prosecution that could indict Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Guardian cited Yousuf Khan, a senior lawyer with law firm Global Rights Compliance, saying that "the weaponization of food has taken place in three phases," starting with Ukrainian cities besieged and food supplies cut off.

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The second stage involves destroying food and water supplies and energy sources across Ukraine during the hostilities, which the lawyer described as "objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population."

Such attacks were "not crimes of result but crimes of intent," Khan told the Guardian, because "if you are taking out objects that civilians need, like energy infrastructure in the dead of winter, there is a foreseeability to your actions."

According to the lawyer, the third phase is Russian attempts to prevent or limit the export of Ukrainian food products, including regular attacks on Ukraine's port infrastructure and grain facilities following Moscow's withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

Global Rights Compliance will work with Kyiv to compile a dossier by the end of the year. A Hague-based prosecutor will then decide whether to proceed with the case, the Guardian wrote.

The Guardian noted that the UN Security Council approved a resolution condemning the use of hunger as a weapon war in 2018, and the year after that, amendments were made to the ICC's Rome Statute to expand the list of cases that can be launched over such actions.

Ukraine's Prosecutor General Andrii Kostin announced on Sept. 14 the opening of the ICC's field office in Kyiv — the largest outside of The Hague. The aim is to "increase the effectiveness and efficiency of responding to the crimes that Russia continues to commit against Ukraine and Ukrainians every day," according to Kostin.

In March, the ICC issued arrest warrants for Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian official overseeing the forced deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia.

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Editor’s Note: The story is based on the documentary Uprooted, published by the Kyiv Independent’s War Crimes Investigation Unit. Russia is systematically deporting Ukrainian children from the occupied part of Ukraine against their will – which constitutes genocide according to one of the five defi…
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