Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze: Prosecute Putin

Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, the chair of Ukraine’s Parliamentary Committee on Integration of Ukraine to the EU, calls for a revocation of Russia’s veto at the United Nations Security Council, followed by a special war-crimes tribunal to prosecute Putin and other culpable officials for the crimes against humanity that have become a staple of Russian policy in Ukraine.

Although Ukraine’s armed forces are outnumbered by those of Russian president Vladimir Putin invading our country, we take heart from the growing support we are receiving from friends abroad. Nobody should forget that this is not just an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine; it is an assault on the free world. 

Putin has been at war with the free world for decades. He has ordered the assassination of Russian exiles on foreign soil, in democratic countries such as the United Kingdom. He has interfered in democratic elections, both in the United States and across Europe. He and his cronies have looted Russia and laundered the cash abroad. He has propagated disinformation worldwide, and crushed dissent at home.

In 2008, he sent Russian forces into Georgia, where they continue to occupy large swaths of that country. And most recently, he has occupied Belarus – now a launchpad for his war on Ukraine.

Acts of genocide

In Ukraine, Putin’s forces have exhibited appalling cruelty, bombing apartment blocks, hospitals, schools, and other essential civilian infrastructure that is critical to urban civilian life. The bombing of Freedom Square in Kharkiv and the use of cluster munitions in cities are unambiguous examples of war crimes. Russian troops are committing acts of genocide against the Ukrainian people.

A Ukrainian civilian killed during the Russian bombing of Chernihiv. Photo by Mvs.gov.ua, shared under the Creative Commons 4.0 licence.

Because Putin’s troops have overrun sensitive sites containing radioactive material in Chernobyl and Kyiv, the threat of nuclear catastrophe is also already upon us. His decision to place Russia’s tactical nuclear forces on high alert is another sign that he has no limits.

The longer Putin’s assault on Ukraine continues, the greater the likelihood that other countries will need to step in more forcefully.

It is no secret that Putin’s objective extends beyond Ukraine. He wants a return to the 1945 Yalta Conference, when world leaders carved up post-World War II Europe according to Western and Soviet spheres of influence. The Kremlin spokesman has issued direct threats against Sweden and Finland – two countries that, like Ukraine, are European but not members of NATO.

The free world has begun to wake up to the magnitude of the threat Putin poses. For too long, the global response amounted to too little, too late. But by barring several Russian banks from the SWIFT financial messaging system, freezing a significant share of Russia’s foreign-exchange holdings, and supplying us with advanced military hardware, the free world is helping Ukraine drive Putin back. 

We are grateful to Poland and other Western neighbors for doing all they can to accommodate Ukrainian refugees – though we now understand that Russia is deploying paratroopers to terrorize these people and to close our western borders.

Set up a special war-crimes tribunal to prosecute Putin

To resist Russia and save Ukraine, we need more help immediately. For starters, we urge Western powers to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine to prevent the continued aerial bombardment of civilian population centers.

Second, other countries must impose an oil and gas embargo on Russia, to cut off its primary revenue source. Third, governments should expel Russian diplomats, deny Russia landing rights, and ban all Russian media channels.

And, finally, we are calling for a revocation of Russia’s veto at the United Nations Security Council, followed by a special war-crimes tribunal to prosecute Putin and other culpable officials for the crimes against humanity that have become a staple of Russian policy in Ukraine.

Alexander Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin, the Belarusian and Russian presidents, meeting in 2020. Photo by the Russian Presidential Press and Information Office, shared under the Creative Commons 4.0 licence.

We will never capitulate

Putin’s terrorist army may inflict horrific damage on our cities, but it will never take control of Kyiv, our Ukraine’s capital and spiritual home. He can try to erase our city from the map with bombardments, but we will never capitulate.

As I sit here on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukrainian politicians of all stripes have rallied together with civil-society leaders and foreign parliamentarians to counter Putin’s outrageous attack on our country.

While our brave armed forces and citizens are resisting Putin’s criminal invasion in the cities and forests of Ukraine, we will continue doing what we can to defend ourselves. We know that we have truth and freedom on our side. All free countries must know that the fight Putin has forced upon us is not ours alone.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2022. The opinions in this article are those of the author.

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