Iva Vukusic on the war in Ukraine: (alleged) Russian and Ukrainian war crimes

Dr. Iva Vukusic
Dr. Iva Vukusic

Already soon after the invasion of Ukraine, reports emerged of war crimes allegedly committed by Russia. In November, images of alleged Ukrainian war crimes also surfaced. Several international media outlets reached out to associate professor of international history and genocide scholar Iva Vukusic for her expertise. An overview.

Russian war crimes?

Ever since the invasion, Russia has been accused of major war crimes. In April, Ukrainian President Zelensky even accused Russia of committing genocide. According to Iva Vukusic, it is likely that Zelensky chose this term because it implies ’more political opportunism’ than similar crimes (Politics Home, 8 April).

Several human rights organisations have started collecting evidence of Russian war crimes. In The New York Times (3 July), Vukusic explains that there are countless hurdles to overcome before war criminals can be held accountable. "There are thousands of potential suspects, and thousands of potential trials. All of the material needs to be properly marshaled and analyzed."

Ukrainian war crimes?

In November, footage surfaced that raised questions about whether Ukraine is also guilty of war crimes. Ten Russian POWs were overpowered, but an eleventh appeared to open fire. The image turns away and gunfire is heard. What happens next is unclear, but a second video shows at least eleven Russian servicemen lying lifeless on the ground.

Ukraine has announced that extensive investigations will follow. The authorities must share their findings and evidence in a transparent way to show that Ukraine is different from Russia, says Vukusic in The New York Times (20 November). "They should seize on this opportunity and send a message: ’We do not want a dirty war. We want to fight with honor, and legally.’"

Iva Vukusic

Iva Vukusic is assistant professor in international history and researches genocide and mass violence, perpetrators, and transitional justice, especially criminal accountability.

Iva Vukusic in the media

Der Spiegel, ’Wann ist T÷ten im Krieg erlaubt - und wann ein Verbrechen?’ (5 April)
Swissinfo, ’La experiencia judicial en La Haya, de los Balcanes a Ucrania’ (5 April)
PoliticsHome, ’Zelensky Warns Russia Has Committed "Genocide" In Ukraine - But For Other Countries, Saying So Is More Complicated’ (8 April)
De Volkskrant, ’Van verkrachtingen tot executies van Oekra´ense burgers: wat bezielt soldaten die deze misdaden plegen?’ (20 April)
The New York Times, ’Investigators of War Crimes in Ukraine Face Formidable Challenges’ (3 July)
The New York Times, ’Videos Suggest Captive Russian Soldiers Were Killed at Close Range’ (20 November)
The New York Times, ’Grim Videos and a Troubling Question’ (21 November)
NOS, ’Veel vragen over gedode Russen in Oekra´ense video, VN wil onderzoek’ (21 November)
Dagbladet, ’Over 30 000 mulige krigsforbrytelser’ (24 November)