Ukraine-Russia: War crimes investigation could help bring an end to the killing – Scotsman comment

An investigation into widespread allegations of war crimes by Russian forces in Ukraine may seem somewhat academic, given Vladimir Putin and his military commanders are unlikely to answer any summons willingly.

However, even as the Russian dictator was flexing his over-sized nuclear muscles – tacitly threatening ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ on the world should it interfere too much with his bloodthirsty ambitions – the process was getting underway at the International Criminal Court.

And, for all Putin may scorn such institutions from his current position of totalitarian power in Russia, it is a step that could have a real effect on events on the ground.

At the very least, it should concentrate the minds of Russian commanders in Ukraine and make some of them think about the ethics of the orders they are giving and obeying.

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While there is little evidence that the threat of prosecution had much effect in Syria, where there has been considerable evidence of the deliberate targeting of civilians by Russian forces, that bloody war did not turn the vast majority of the world’s countries against Putin’s regime.

Any commander giving orders to fire on civilians in Ukraine will know they could well face serious repercussions if the 69-year-old Putin is ousted or dies.

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For some, that might make them support him all the more, with their fate linked to his, but presumably there are senior Russian officers who agree that killing elderly people, children and other non-combatants is morally wrong.

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Ukraine has accused Russian forces of targeting civilians (Picture: Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty Images)

And their numbers might be swelled by more cynical ones if the sanctions imposed by the West and decisions by some major international corporations to sever ties with Russia continue to degrade its economy.

If it collapses, creating significant unemployment, support for Putin is likely to crumble in the country at large but also in the military. Those being asked to carry out illegal and immoral orders might start to push back, creating internal tensions and thereby damaging morale and fighting capability.

There have already been some signs that fellow-feeling between Russians and Ukrainians has made the former question what they are doing to the latter.

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Anything that heightens the Russian army’s sense of duty to humanity, rather than country or, more accurately, the murderous Putin, is not just worthwhile, but vital.

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