Russia has committed numerous war crimes in Ukraine, including the forcible deportation of children in areas it controls, according to a report from a United Nations-backed inquiry.
The allegations were detailed in a report released Thursday by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, which said some acts may amount to crimes against humanity.
Among possible crimes against humanity, investigators cited repeated attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure in recent months, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without heating and electricity in winter, as well as the “systematic and widespread” use of torture in multiple regions under Russian occupation.
“There were elements of planning and availability of resources that indicate that the Russian authorities may have committed torture as crimes against humanity,” said Erik Møse, a former judge at the Norwegian Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights who led the investigation.
The investigation found crimes committed against Ukrainians on Russian soil, including deported Ukrainian children who were prevented from reuniting with their families, a “filtration” system aimed at single out Ukrainians for detention, and torture and inhumane detention conditions.
Russia denies committing atrocities or attacking civilians in Ukraine.
At her weekly news briefing, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters that Moscow regularly heard such accusations.
She added that if those behind such reports support objectivity “then we are ready to analyze specific cases, answer questions, provide data, statistics and facts. But if they are biased, if they represent only one point of view, … then there is no point in responding to these reports.”
The 18-page report is based on more than 500 interviews, satellite images and visits to detention centers and graves. It was released as the International Criminal Court in The Hague is expected to seek the arrest of Russian officials for forcibly deporting children from Ukraine and attacking civilian infrastructure.
According to the report, Russian forces carried out “indiscriminate and disproportionate” attacks on Ukraine and called for the perpetrators to be held accountable.
“The ongoing armed conflict in Ukraine has had devastating consequences on several levels,” Møse said. “Human losses and the general disregard for civilian life… are shocking.”
The report said at least 13 waves of Russian attacks since October against Ukraine’s energy-related infrastructure, as well as the use of torture, “could amount to crimes against humanity”.
It quoted a figure from the Ukrainian government as finding that about 16,000 children have been unlawfully transferred and deported from Ukraine. Russia denies the accusation and says it has voluntarily evacuated people from Ukraine.
Other children were forced to watch their loved ones raped or, in one case, held in a school basement next to bodies, the report said.
Victims in Russian detention centers were subjected to electric shocks with a military telephone — a treatment known as a “call to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin” — or suspended from the ceiling in a “parrot position,” the report said.
When asked whether Russia’s actions could amount to genocide, as Ukraine insists, Møse said his committee had not yet found such evidence, but would continue to follow up.
Ukraine, which has called for the creation of a special tribunal to prosecute Russia’s political and military leaders for the crime of aggression during the invasion, has said the commission is essential to ensuring Russia is held accountable.
The committee found reasonable grounds to conclude that the invasion of Ukraine qualifies as an act of aggression.
The report also found that Ukrainian forces committed a “small number of violations”, including what appeared to be indiscriminate attacks and torture of prisoners of war.
There was no immediate comment from the Ukrainian government.
The commission’s report will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday. Countries on the council, the only body made up of governments to protect human rights worldwide, aim to expand and deepen the commission’s mandate.
Sometimes the council’s investigations lead to prosecutions in international courts. The commission said it was working on a list of possible perpetrators to be passed on to UN authorities.