Zelensky calls for ‘special tribunal’ to punish Russia
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for a “special tribunal” to punish Russia on Thursday as the International Criminal Court (ICC) hosted a conference on its “overarching strategy” to bring perpetrators of war crimes in Ukraine to justice.
Zelensky cited the recent Russian missile attacks on Ukraine, including shelling in the city of Vinnytsia Thursday morning, destroying residential buildings, a medical center and transportation hubs.
“This is an audacious act of Russian terror. People couldn’t do that. They are beasts! Eight missiles, two of which hit downtown. As of this moment, 20 people died, among them three children, a large number of wounded,” Zelensky said in his address.
Zelensky added he would do everything in his power to support a special tribunal against Russia to “ensure the fair and lawful punishment” for those responsible for the biggest war in Europe since World War II.
“Our efforts will be enough to record the crimes of the Russian occupiers; to gather all the evidence so that it is absolutely admissible in the courts; to establish each of the guilty. However, those people whose decisions led to this array of crimes must not hide behind the so-called immunity of officials,” Zelensky said in his address.
“The principle of inevitability of punishment must also apply to these people. And this can only be ensured by the Special Tribunal on Aggression against Ukraine.”
The ICC launched its inquiry into war crimes in Ukraine in March, just days after Moscow began its invasion. The court is hosting a conference this week bringing together dozens of nations who are contributing to investigations and efforts to collect evidence as part of efforts to hold Russia accountable.
“The simple truth is that, as we speak, children, women and men, the young and the old, are living in terror,” ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan said at the open of the Ukraine Accountability Conference, according to The Associated Press.
State Department human rights envoy Uzra Zeya delivered a message to the conference from Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“With each day, the war crimes mount. Rape, torture, extrajudicial executions, disappearances, forced deportations. Attacks on schools, hospitals, playgrounds, apartment buildings, grain silos, water and gas facilities,” Zeya said. “These are not the acts of rogue units — they fit a clear pattern across every part of Ukraine touched by Russia’s forces.”
The AP and Frontline, which are tracking incidents in Ukraine, have so far tallied 338 potential war crimes.
Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, said more than 23,000 war crimes cases have been registered in Ukraine alone. The ICC and 14 European Union member nations also have launched investigations.
The State Department launched a program in May to collect and analyze evidence of Moscow’s war crimes, adding that its findings will be shared publicly as well.
The Kremlin has accused the U.S. of hypocrisy for its support of holding Russia accountable through an international forum, pointing to the lack of accountability for U.S. actions during the Vietnam War.
Top Kremlin official Dmitry Medvedev warned earlier this month that the U.S. would face the “wrath of God” if it helps in efforts to launch an international tribunal to prosecute Russians.
“The idea of punishing a country that has one of the largest nuclear potentials is absurd. And potentially poses a threat to the existence of humanity,” Medvedev wrote on Instagram.