"Russian War Crimes” – a photo exhibition detailing 6,400 independently verified photos of Russian war crimes committed in Ukraine – opened its doors to the public on 5 September in Brussels. The event was officially inaugurated by Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and other senior European and officials.
Senior Ukrainian officials used the event as a platform to seek backing for a special war crimes tribunal to prosecute Russian top brass and political leaders for their role in launching the invasion of Ukraine.
“Ukraine has been pushing for the creation of an international special tribunal to put the top leaders of the Russian Federation on trial for the military aggression against our state,” said Andriy Yermak, head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, appearing via livestream.
Since the start of Russia’s invasion on 24 February, Ukrainian authorities have recorded 45,000 crimes related to Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine, 31,000 of which the Ukrainian government describes as war crimes.
The event, at the heart of the European Union, aimed to show the true gravity of the crimes committed in Ukraine to key decision-makers within the European bubble.
A video created by the Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers, composed of thousands of graphic photos of war crimes and overlaid with real intercepted audio from Russian soldiers calling home to gloat about their crimes, was played. For nine minutes, the gruesome and shocking photos were shown to European dignitaries.
Editors note: This video contains graphic images. Viewer discretion is advised.
43 member nations of the International Criminal Court have submitted evidence of Russia’s war crimes in Ukraine. However, the ICC lacks the jurisdiction to prosecute for Russia’s declaration of war.
“The ICC in The Hague can prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. But it is also important for us to ensure the individual responsibility of the Russian leadership for the most serious initial crimes — the crime of aggression,” Yermak told participants at the event.
Bringing war criminals to justice
The new special tribunal would seek to bring Russian heads of state to justice. But in order to establish such a case against Russia, Ukraine still needs the backing of its European partners.
European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, told Ukrainian officials at the event that he was “open to discussing” the possibility of a special tribunal alongside his Ukrainian partners.
“It is important to try to use all the possible tools to have real accountability, which is our goal for the next days, weeks, months, and if needed, the next years,” Reynders told the press.
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Echoing these sentiments, President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola pledged her full support for bringing war criminals to justice.
“I want to assure you, we will not turn a blind eye to the horrific attacks on your country, on your people. We stand firmly with our Ukrainian friends and will do whatever it takes to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice.”
The exhibition officially opened its doors to the public on 5 September and will run until 15 September at the Ukrainian Civil Society Hub in the former Europe Station building in front of the European Parliament in Brussels. Entry to the exhibition is free.