• Press Release

Ukraine/Russia: Justice for Ukraine Means Accountability for All Crimes Committed by Russia Since 2014

February 22, 2024

There can be no justice for Ukrainians without full accountability for all crimes committed by Russia since its military intervention in 2014, Amnesty International said today, on the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Since the 2014 occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea, Amnesty International has documented numerous atrocities, including the deliberate targeting of civilians and critical civilian infrastructure, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, torture, unlawful deprivation of freedom, forcible transfer of civilians and the abuse of prisoners of war.

“While the war is still raging, evidence of every single atrocity must be preserved as much as possible. Those responsible for crimes under international law must face justice, no matter how long it takes. These crimes have no statute of limitations,” said Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.

A decade-long armed conflict

In February 2014, Russia sent its troops to occupy Ukraine’s Crimea but never admitted that its armed forces also entered eastern Ukraine in the same year. Amnesty International’s published evidence from 2014, including examination of satellite images and eyewitness accounts, affirmed that it did, which now makes this a decade-long international armed conflict.

People suffered the effects of war and human rights violations throughout Ukraine but most of all in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, on either side of the front line. Between 2014 and 2021, more than 10,000 Ukrainian civilians were killed or injured, with many violations of the laws of war reported in the first year of fighting.

Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced from eastern Ukraine after Russia-backed armed groups proclaimed as “People’s Republics” in Donetsk and Luhansk. But many people stayed.

“In Donetsk I had a place to live, a job to provide food and my parents to support me and the baby. It was very difficult to watch what was happening with my home…But in 2022, when the pressure to get a Russian passport and interference with the school became too much, I decided it was time to go,” said Olha* from Donetsk.

From the moment that Russian-backed armed groups seized control, Donetsk and Luhansk regions were plagued by abduction, torture and, in many instances, the killing of civilians. Residents of Slovyansk told Amnesty International that, in 2014, an armed group abducted a local pastor, two of his sons and two churchgoers, and requested 50,000 US dollars in ransom. By the time the local community collected the money, the five captives had been killed.

Such atrocities were accompanied by the brutal silencing of any dissent, which targeted media workers, academics, human rights and other activists.

A tragically familiar human rights catastrophe

With Russia’s full-scale invasion two years ago – an act of aggression that is a crime under international law – the tragically familiar human rights catastrophe extended across the country.

“Those who survived 2014 told us ‘this is war, you have to evacuate.’ Now I know they were right. And only now I know what they felt: leaving your home, starting your life all over again. And they have had to do it twice,” said Nataliia* from Chernihiv in northern Ukraine.

War crimes committed by Russia in the Kyiv region during the early days of its full-scale invasion clearly demonstrated a pattern of torture and unlawful killings of civilians, most of which appear to be extrajudicial executions.

“I saw Oleh lying on the ground in a pool of blood. […] Part of his head was missing and he was bleeding profusely from his head and his ear. I screamed and the soldiers pointed their rifles at me and I shouted at them ‘shoot me too’. The soldiers forced us to leave immediately. We were not allowed to come back until after they withdrew from Bucha. Oleh’s body remained there on the street,” said Iryna, recalling the killing of her husband by Russian forces in March 2022.

“We must ensure that all those responsible for crimes under international law are brought to justice in fair trials. It is paramount that the people of Ukraine receive truth, justice and reparations for the devastating impact this war has had for the last ten years and continues to have on the people, the land, the infrastructure and economy of Ukraine” said Denis Krivosheev.

*Names changed to protect the identities of sources

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