WHAT KREMLIN PROPAGANDISTS SAY:
Since the outbreak of the war, human rights organisations have been monitoring and reporting on the human rights situation in Ukraine. Multiple reports have been released so far, unveiling evidence of war crimes committed by Russian armed forces in Ukraine. Pro-Kremlin media outlets have sought to minimise these charges, promoting the disinformation narrative that the war crimes, of which they have been accused, are ‘fake.’
Pro-Kremlin actors began laying the groundwork for this disinformation narrative early in the conflict by condemning any investigations or tribunals set up in Ukraine as ‘illegitimate and biased’ against Russia.
They argue that these investigations are being used as a tool to cover up war crimes committed by other countries, including Ukraine, and to frame Russia as the perpetrator.
WHAT ARE THE FACTS:
This disinformation narrative is central to the Kremlin's attempts to undermine the severity of the charges which have been made against Russian armed forces. Multiple human rights organisations and independent reporters have conducted extensive investigations into the human rights situation in Ukraine. The claim that the crimes which have been uncovered were ‘faked’ cannot be taken seriously.
Throughout the war, Russian troops heavily shell and bomb residential areas, schools, kindergartens, hospitals, orphanages, churches and other civilian objects. Additionally, the atrocities which have been discovered in formerly occupied regions including Bucha, Kharkiv, Kherson and other regions have followed similar patterns. The evidence which has been collected by a number of independent and globally recognised organisations, including UN investigators, the International Criminal Court, Human Rights Watch and independent reporters, is irrefutable.
Dozens of civilians were found in a mass graves, as well as killings, rape and other crimes against civilians were registered in those areas. Local residents told reporters about life under Russian occupation. Hundreds of dead bodies were found in Kharkiv Oblast, some with hands tied, which indicate the killing of prisoners. Bodies of Ukrainian soldiers were found among civilians.
Debunk.org has previously uncovered the wide variety of techniques used by the Kremlin to dismiss allegations of war crimes. These narratives are crucial for what remains of Russia’s justification of the invasion, which propagandists continue to present as a ‘liberation’. The sheer scale of Russia’s disregard for civilian life in Ukraine demonstrates that Russia is not interested in ‘liberating’ Ukraine.
Another disturbing strategy which the Kremlin has used to deflect from these atrocities is to amplify cases of war crimes being committed by Ukrainian soldiers. In August 2022, pro-Kremlin outlets seized upon a report released by Amnesty International which accused Ukraine of illegally endangering citizens by placing armed forces in civilian areas. The highly controversial report was weaponized by Russia, who accused Ukraine of ‘breaching international humanitarian law.’ President Zelensky condemned the report, stating that Amnesty International was “shift[ing] the responsibility from the aggressor to the victim”, as Ukrainian soldiers had moved to these areas only as a result of Russian armed forces deliberately targeting civilians. Following an internal review, Amnesty concluded that the report was “written in language that was ambiguous, imprecise and in some respects legally questionable.”
By shifting attention to allegations of war crimes committed by Ukrainian soldiers, Kremlin sources attempt to deflect from the atrocities which have been committed by Russia and construct a false perception of parity in the conduct of the two countries. It is undeniable that the vast majority of crimes documented in the conflict have been committed by Russian armed forces.
Debunker is a series of disinformation-busting articles from Debunk.org which focus on dispelling the harmful lies and propaganda being pushed by pro-Kremlin sources. Check out the rest of the series at debunk.org/debunker.