Opinion: Putin is a war criminal

Vladimir Putin’s acts in the attack on Ukraine have all been unspeakable and he should be tried for war crimes


Sergei Supinsky / AFP via Getty Images / TNS

Journalists gather as bodies are exhumed from a mass-grave in the grounds of the St. Andrew and Pyervozvannoho All Saints church in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, northwest of Kyiv on April 13, 2022.

Bri Quast, Staff Writer

Bodies with gunshots to their heads, and white ties bounding their wrists behind their backs are strewn across the streets of Bucha. Cars with bullet holes sit abandoned by civilians, some of them with dead bodies still inside. Houses are in shambles, their driveways plowed over by tanks. At the church grounds there are shallow graves with dozens of body bags piling up next to each other. 

After  Russias’ withdrawal from Bucha on April 4, Ukrainian troops discovered 410 massacred civilians; those numbers are still on the rise as investigation further goes on. The Kremlin likes to say these deaths are mere allegations made to make them look like the bad guys they constantly claim they are not, but these deaths are nothing less than the act of war crimes for which the world should prosecute them.

Over a thousand citizens have died. Nuclear power plants have been targeted by Russia’s shelling. Schools, children’s hospitals, a theater filled with children- any areas densely populated with citizens are the targets of Russian air strikes. Allegations of rape against Russian soldiers continue to rise. Lethal weapons such as cluster bombs and vacuum bombs are highly suspected of being in their use, not to mention the shootings of bystanders at random. These all qualify as acts of war crimes.

Putin can be charged as guilty for these crimes by The International Criminal Court. The prosecution of Nazi leaders at the Nuremberg trials in 1956 and 1946 marked the first time that an international criminal court was establsihed. It was brought before the United Nations for establishment, but it operates on its own. The court does not try countries but tries leaders and officials for their crimes.

The ICC is a court made up of 123 countries, called as a last resort for international crimes involving genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression. Ukraine is not one of the countries apart of the court, but it has recently accepted its jurisdiction. 

The ICC has begun an investigation into Putin’s war crimes due to the requests made by 39 national governments for him to be prosecuted. The downsides to the investigations are that they take a couple of years, and only a handful of convictions have ever won. Despite these matters, the case could play out differently due to the outflowing demands for Putin’s trial. 

Some say it is worth the wait, while others don’t believe much will come out of it. There is also the nuisance of not knowing where Ukraine and Russia will stand in the next couple of years, as Putin’s prosecution would be less impactful if he gained total control over Ukraine. 

However, if that is not the case, Putin’s power could weaken if he is found guilty. The ICC indictment of Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir isolated him, and his ability to travel so his people forced him out of power. There is a chance Putin’s prosecution could make Russian citizens view him as less of a desirable president for their country. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says, “All the crimes of the occupiers are being documented..the time will come when every Russian will learn the whole truth about who killed their fellow citizens. Who gave orders. Who turned a blind eye to the murders. We will establish all this and make it globally known. It is now 2022, and we have many more tools than those who prosecuted the Nazis after World War II.” 

Putin has shown no effort to uphold any sort of humanitarian concern, and while he claims his reasoning for invading Ukraine is to free the country of oppression and genocide, his actions deem nothing short of genocide themselves. His actions seem purposed towards eliminating the whole country of Ukraine in order to recreate a new one he is in power of.

History has shown us time and time again that dictators who push aside humanity for power eventually take their fall; it is just a matter of time until Putin faces his. Until then the world holds its breath to see what the ICC will decide.