The Russian military has a deep culture of cruelty

For all those who have followed the path of war of Russian President Vladimir Putin, this is a depressingly familiar model. The Russian military has a culture of brutality and contempt for the laws of armed conflict, which has been widely documented in the past.

“The history of Russia’s military intervention – whether in Ukraine or Syria, or its military campaign in Chechnya – is tainted by outrageous disregard for international humanitarian law,” said Agnes Kalamar, secretary general of Amnesty International.

“The Russian military has repeatedly violated the laws of war by not protecting civilians and even attacking them directly. Russian forces have carried out indiscriminate attacks, used prohibited weapons and sometimes, obviously, deliberately targeted civilians and civilian objects – this is a war crime.

This statement, made less than a month before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, turned out to be, unfortunately, prophetic. In the first weeks of the war, the international community reacted with horror to the fact that Ukrainian cities came under relentless Russian bombing. Protected civilian infrastructure has been affected, as once Russian aircraft struck Syrian schools and hospitals.

But the scenes unfolding in places like Bucha suggest an intimate form of violence, somewhat reminiscent of Russia’s war in Chechnya.

During the second Chechen war – which coincided with Putin’s rise to power – there were also allegations of widespread human rights abuses by Russian troops. In 2000, to cite just one known incident, Human Rights Watch investigators documented the execution of at least 60 civilians in two suburbs of Grozny, the Chechen capital.

Locals have unearthed mass graves in Chechnya; international officials traveled to the region to find out the facts and made concerned statements about reports of abuse and extrajudicial killings. These statements did not stop the Russian military from advancing its ruthless pacification campaign.

There is a lot of such evidence of executions without judges in cities like Bucha. The CNN team visited the basement of one of the buildings and saw the bodies of five men before they were taken out by a Ukrainian team. Adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Anton Gerashchenko told CNN that five men were tortured and executed by Russian soldiers.

CNN cannot independently verify Gerashchanka’s allegations. But no less alarming is the alleged treatment of Ukrainian troops with Ukrainian prisoners of war. Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Lyudmila Denisova said on Monday that Russia’s treatment of prisoners of war violates the Geneva Conventions, setting out a theoretical argument for potential prosecution for war crimes.

On Monday, Denisova said on Facebook that the released Ukrainian servicemen “told about the inhuman treatment of them by the Russian side: they were kept in a field, a pit, garages. One of them was taken out from time to time: they beat him with rifle butts, shot him in the ear, and intimidated him. ”

CNN cannot independently verify Denisova’s allegations.

57-year-old Tanya Nedashkiva mourns the death of her husband killed in Bucha.

On March 22, Igor Zhdanov, a correspondent for the Russian state propaganda publication RT, published videos showing Ukrainian prisoners of war being sent for “filtering” – a word of Zhdanov’s choice – after they were captured. The video shows masked Russians looking for tattoos or insignia in their captives, which allegedly indicate affiliation with nationalists or “neo-Nazi” groups, which Russians consider their main enemy in Ukraine.

In his letter, Zhdanov said that Ukrainian prisoners of war are treated humanely. But his choice of words was sinister. During the war in Chechnya, Russian troops are known to have used so-called “filtration camps,” which were used to separate civilians from insurgent fighters. Legendary Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya collected testimonies from Chechen civilians held in filtration centers, where detainees said they were kept in pits and electrocuted, beaten and ruthlessly interrogated.

Russian forces have also aimed to detain local Ukrainian mayors – and in at least one case, Ukrainian officials say, it is an extrajudicial killing.

The horrors of Putin's invasion of Ukraine are increasingly coming to light

“Currently, 11 local mayors of Kyiv, Kherson, Mykolaiv and Donetsk regions are in Russian captivity,” Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Iryna Verashchuk said in a statement posted on social networks on Sunday. She said the Ukrainian government learned on Saturday that Volha Sukhenko, the mayor of the village of Motyzhyn in the Kyiv region, had been killed while imprisoning Russian servicemen.

Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of the southern city of Melitopol, who was detained by Russian troops but later released as part of a prisoner exchange, said Russian troops occupying the city were embezzling local businesses, saying the situation was difficult because Russian soldiers said themselves as power, but they certainly don’t care about people and their problems, they only care about taking money from businessmen, [and seizing] their business ”.

Long before the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian military had a reputation for a culture of cruelty. Russia has a hybrid system of recruits and recruits. Although the Russian government claims to have succeeded in professionalizing its troops, the country’s military still has a harsh hacking system known as hazing, a notorious tradition that encourages senior recruits to beat, harass or even rape few. recruits.

Biden is calling for a war crimes trial after images appeared in Bucha

Putin recently announced a decree on spring conscription, which sets a target for conscription of 134,500 people into the Russian armed forces. Initially, the Russian president said that Russian conscripts would not participate in what Russia euphemistically called a “special military operation” in Ukraine. But then the Russian Defense Ministry acknowledged that the conscripts were fighting in Ukraine, and Ukrainian forces claimed to have captured a significant number of Russian conscripts.

Ukrainian investigators are already launching a criminal investigation into the alleged crimes of Russian troops as more areas are liberated from Russian control – especially around Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv.

It will take days, maybe weeks, before we get a fuller picture of what happened in Bucha. But if the past is a landmark, there is little hope that Russian criminals will be brought to justice.

CNN’s Alex Hardy contributed to this report. CNN correspondent Vasco Cotovio made a report from Bucha, Ukraine.

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