Russian Separatists in Donetsk Demand Zelenskyy Be Tried as War Criminal

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks at a news conference held jointly with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Alexey Furman/Getty Images)

Russian separatists in the eastern Ukrainian breakaway state known as the Donetsk People’s Republic want to see President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tried as a war criminal by a Russian tribunal.

“Perpetrators of military crimes are not just those who hold weapons in their hands and pull the trigger,” Newsweek reported Donetsk People’s Republic parliament member Yelena Shishkina telling the Russian News Agency TASS Wednesday. “Those are also generals, who issue orders, and presidents, too.”

Shishkina, who chairs the parliament’s committee on criminal and administrative legislation, told the Russian state news agency that the DPR wants to charge other leaders who have run Ukraine since 2014, when Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea, Newsweek reported.

Those other leaders include former acting president Oleksandr Turchynov and former president Petro Poroshenko, who along with Zelenskyy, put their names “under orders to send neo-Nazis to Donbas to kill civilians here.”

Putin has claimed that the military action and invasion of Ukraine was to “rescue” the separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk from “genocide” by the Ukrainians.

“Ukraine has put in place conditions that allowed neo-Nazi organizations to function on its territory, including amnesty for their members, failures to bring them to criminal responsibility, and legislative endorsement of crimes committed against Russians,” Shishkina said in the report. “When sufficient evidence is presented by law-enforcement agencies … then, of course, those guilty will be punished.”

According to a statement by International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan on March 2, the international body set up to investigate and prosecute crimes from war opened an investigation into Putin and his military actions in Ukraine just days after he invaded, on Feb. 28.

U.S. President Joe Biden said in April that Putin should be investigated for war crimes after disturbing images of death and destruction allegedly committed by Russian troops in Bucha were made public, CNN reported at the time.

While Biden said the images appeared to show Putin acting like a “war criminal,” more information needed to be collected.

“We have to gather the information,” Biden said. “We have to continue to provide Ukraine with the weapons they need to continue the fight and we have to get all the details so this can be an actual, have a war crime trial.”


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