Human rights association

Russian army: predetermined cruelty. Chapter 1. Objectives of war

The UN Charter adopted in 1945 prohibited war, emphasizing the inadmissibility of threats or the use of force in international relations, particularly” against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state ” (Article 2 of the Charter). However, the existence of this principle of international law did not lead to world stability – wars, which came to be called “military conflicts,” periodically arose and were conducted with varying degrees of intensity.

At the same time, scientific and technological progress has significantly expanded warfare tools, replenishing the military’s arsenals with high-precision, “intelligent,” and non-lethal weapons. Many states’ political and military leadership had the opportunity to choose and implement military doctrines that would lead to less tragic consequences for the civilian population.

However, from the first days of military aggression in Ukraine, it became clear that Russia not only openly and defiantly ignored the legal norms recognized by the international community but also used inhumane and destructive methods of conducting military operations. The world was even more shocked by the ruthless attitude of the occupying forces towards the civilian population in the occupied territories, which in terms of the level of repression and cruelty, reminded humanity of the terrible times of the Second World War. Along with the Nazi swastika, the sign in the form of the letter “Z,” with which the Russians marked their equipment, became a symbol of violence, suffering, and death. Of course, every war is accompanied by manifestations of cruelty. Still, the scale of its use in Ukraine shocked the European community so much that the parliaments of Ukraine, Estonia, Ireland, Canada, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and the Czech Republic recognized Russia’s actions as genocide of the Ukrainian people.

It would be a mistake to believe that the numerous war crimes committed by the Russians against the civilian population were a response to the successful resistance to the invasion by the Armed Forces of Ukraine and that the atrocities of the Russian soldiers were motivated only by the desire to avenge the death of their comrades.

This is not the case because any behavior of military personnel in the occupied territories is formed by a combination of several factors. And after analyzing those factors, we can conclude that the Russian army’s ruthlessness and cruelty in Ukraine were predetermined.

1. Objectives of war.

“True sovereignty of Ukraine is only possible in partnership with Russia. Because we are one nation”. This is how Vladimir Putin defined the place of Ukraine and the Ukrainian nation in the world back in July 2021 in the article “On the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians.” Published on the president’s official website, the piece became a manifesto declaring war on Ukrainian statehood. By order of Defense Minister Serhiy Shoigu, the article was subject to compulsory studying in the Russian army. At that moment, it became clear that military aggression against Ukraine was inevitable because it was the only way to satisfy the ambitions of the Russian leader.

Any war is the most radical way to achieve political goals. And the legality and humanity of these goals determine the attitude of military personnel toward the civilian population. In other words, in war, the end not only justifies the means but also defines them. The leadership and representatives of the political establishment of Russia have repeatedly and publicly announced the final goals of the military invasion of Ukraine as the forced replacement of the legally elected government with a pro-Russian one, deprivation of the Ukrainian people’s right to self-identification, the alienation and annexation of part of the territories of Ukraine and their resources to Russia.

“We received new territories. I will not hide it. And the Sea of Azov has become the internal sea of the Russian Federation. These are serious things, this is a significant result for Russia” [1] (Vladimir Putin, the speech at a meeting of the Council on Human Rights under the President of Russia).

“Vladimir Putin clearly set his goals – the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine [2]. The objective of our future actions shall be the complete dismantling of the political regime of Ukraine [3]. Who said that Ukraine would exist on the world map in two years? Ukrainian identity does not exist and has never existed” [4] (Dmitri Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, Chairman of the ruling party “United Russia”).

“We will not stop anywhere. Our territory is not Zaporizhzhia, not Kherson. Our territory is Odesa, Kyiv, Kharkiv. All regions and Ukraine, in general, are our territory” [5] (Ramzan Kadyrov, head of Chechnya).

The achievement of these blatantly illegal and invasive goals is only possible through illegal and barbaric means. The article “What should Russia do with Ukraine?” [6] (published in April 2022 on the website of the Russian state news agency “RIA NOVOSTI”) explains: “In matters of denazification, Russia cannot proceed from a liberal approach. Denazification will inevitably become de-Ukrainization. Bandera’s elite must be liquidated; its re-education is impossible. And the social “swamp,” which actively and passively supported it by action or inaction, must suffer the burden of the war and gain the experience as a historical lesson and redemption for its guilt.”

The statement of the US Ambassador to the UN and other international organizations in Geneva shows that such a plan is not just theoretical considerations [7]. The statement claims that the United States of America has reliable information about Russia’s preparation of lists of “identified Ukrainians who will be killed or sent to camps after the military occupation.” In addition, Russia intends to use “lethal measures” as well as “kidnapping/enforced disappearances, unlawful detention, and torture” to suppress peaceful dissent against the occupation.

The German “Bild,” with reference to the foreign intelligence service, reported on the Russian project to create special camps on the occupied territories of Ukraine for “sorting out Ukrainians who show implacability.” According to the article, “camps for holding pro-Ukrainian activists are already being planned, and lists of those who will be imprisoned in them are being drafted” [8].

Experts of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), in their report “Preliminary Lessons in Conventional Warfare from Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: February – July 2022,” concluded that even on the eve of the invasion, Russian counterintelligence compiled lists according to which Ukrainians divided into four categories: those subject to physical liquidation; those who will need to be intimidated; potentially neutral persons who can be persuaded to cooperate; those who are ready to cooperate (potential collaborators). One of the authors of the report claims that RUSI received instructions and documents that indicate that the first category of Ukrainians (subject to physical liquidation) includes not only war veterans but also civilians – participants of pro-Ukrainian protests, representatives of pro-Ukrainian political and civil organizations, culture and art activists, who took a pro-Ukrainian position and advocated for the Ukrainian language [9].

The public statements of Russian politicians and top-ranked officials, which openly encourage military personnel to commit violence and murder, leave no doubt about the methods the Russian army shall use to establish a “new order” in Ukraine.

“Two million people must either leave Ukraine or be denazified. That is, to be eliminated” [10] (Aleksey Zhuravlev, deputy of the State Duma of the Russian Federation).

“Ukrainian cities should be erased from the earth so that the distant horizon can be seen, so that they understand that it is impossible to even think of shooting in our direction. We should not wait for what will happen tomorrow” [11] (Ramzan Kadyrov, head of Chechnya).

“Denazification is a multi-layered process. In this sense, my opinion is absolutely radical. I believe that even the very concept of “Ukraine” should not exist in the future. And the concept of “Ukrainian” should not exist in the future” [12] (Oleg Matveychev, deputy of the State Duma of the Russian Federation).

Historical experience shows that foreign military intervention aims to conquer new territories, force a change of power in the country, and plant an alien worldview is always accompanied by cruelty and violence against the indigenous population. Ukraine could not become and has not become an exception to this rule.

(to be continued)

Association UMDPL

We remind you that Association UMDPL is working on creating a “Black Register of Executions, Tortures and Cases of Inhumane Treatment of the Civilian Population in the Territories Temporarily Occupied since February 24, 2022.” More details here (in Ukrainian).


The material was prepared by experts of the Association UMDPL within the project “Documentation of war crimes committed by the Russian Federation” (The project is carried out with the financial support of NED).



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