Tuesday, 31 October ‘23

This week’s overview of key events and links to essential reading.

Tuesday, 31 October ‘23

This week’s overview of key events and links to essential reading.

Tuesday, 31 October, 2023


Institute for War & Peace Reporting

First War Crime Cases Brought to German Prosecutors Under Universal Jurisdiction

The Clooney Foundation for Justice (CFJ) filed three cases with German Federal prosecutors, requesting an investigation into war crimes committed in Ukraine under the principle of universal jurisdiction. On October 26, the US-based organisation submitted dossiers on missile attacks on the southern port city of Odesa that killed 22 people; the execution of four men in occupied territory in the Kharkiv region and a series of executions and acts of torture and sexual violence committed outside the capital Kyiv. All events took place in 2022. The CFJ is representing 16 survivors and families of the victims and one of the cases was filed jointly with CFJ’s partner, Ukrainian NGO Truth Hounds.

A statement by CFJ said that “Germany has strong national laws criminalising such offences [war crimes and crimes against humanity] and has been at the forefront of pursuing accountability for the most serious international crimes in recent decades.” The dossiers have also been shared with the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Two Russian Soldiers Accused of Torturing and Killing Three Brothers

A Russian colonel and one of his subordinates were issued a suspicion in absentia for torturing and killing three brothers under Part 2 of Article 28 and Part 2 of Article 438 of Ukraine’s criminal code. 

Investigators from the National Police found that in March 2022 Colonel Konstantin Smirnov and his subordinate Denis Podgorny were in the Chernihiv region, under the lead of a Russian commander known as “Zakon”. The accused detained three brothers, one of whom had previously been a participant in the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) that Ukraine launched in 2014 in the Donbas region. 

The three men were tortured for four days and the eldest brother, unable to withstand the torture, confessed to sabotaging Russian military equipment, even though he had not done so. According to investigators, Smirnov then ordered Podgorny and other subordinates to kill the men. The three brothers were taken into a forested area, made to kneel and shot. Their bodies were thrown into a pit and buried. One of them however survived and managed to escape from the pit.

Charged with violating the laws and customs of war in combination with premeditated murder, the accused face life imprisonment if found guilty. 

Russian Man Issued Suspicion in Absentia for Rape

Police investigators issued a suspicion in absentia against a Russian man on charges of raping a Ukrainian woman in the southern city of Mariupol, in violation of the laws and customs of war (Part 1 of Article 438 of the criminal code). Oleg Balashov, 51, is a member of the illegal “People's Militia of the Luhansk People's Republic”; he hails from Tyumen, a city in central Russia near the border with Kazakstan. 

According to the investigation, in March 2022, Balashov entered the basement of a building in Mariupol, which has been occupied since May 2022, where the 55-year-old victim was sheltering with her family. As he learned that the woman refused to evacuate to Russia, Balashov pointed a weapon at her, threatened to shoot her, ordered her to hand over her passport and ordered her to go to an apartment on the 5th floor of the building. There, he forced her onto a couch and raped her.

Three Russian Commanders Suspected of Kherson Shelling 

Ukraine’s security service (SBU) have filed charges in absentia against three high-ranking Russian military officers for their alleged involvement in the shelling of the southern port city of Kherson on May 3.  The attack killed 24 civilians and injured 51. 

The suspects are General Colonel Oleg Makarevich, commander of the "Dnepr" task force; Lieutenant General Arkadiy Marzoyev, commander of the 22nd Army Corps of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and Lieutenant Colonel Dmytro Zharkikh, commander of the 8th Artillery Regiment of the Black Sea Fleet’s Coastal Troops.

According to the investigation, the three are responsible for the orchestrated rocket and artillery bombardment that targeted residential high-rises, private homes, a shopping centre, a gas station and a railway station. 

General Colonel Makarevich reportedly ordered the shelling while General Marzoyev was in charge of preparing the mass attack and Lieutenant Colonel Zharkikh directly commanded the shelling. They are charged with conducting aggressive warfare and issuing orders to violate the laws and customs of war under Part 2 of Article 28, Part 2 of Article 437, Part 2 of Article 438 of the criminal code).

This is the second suspicion for Lieutenant Colonel Zharkikh. He is already facing charges for reportedly ordering a previous attack on Kherson, on December 24, 2022, which killed 13 people and left over 60 wounded. The shelling came from the left bank of the Dnieper river of Kherson region, which remains under Russian occupation. 

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