A United Nations investigation into human rights violations in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion warned on Monday that some rhetoric transmitted by Russian media could amount to incitement to genocide.
Speaking before the UN Human Rights Council, the head of the investigation team, Erik Mose, voiced concern ‘about allegations of genocide in Ukraine’.
‘For instance, some of the rhetoric transmitted in Russian state and other media may constitute incitement to genocide,’ he said, adding that the team was ‘continuing its investigations on such issues’.
The Norwegian judge heads a three-person Commission of Inquiry, which was created by the council to investigate violations committed since Russia’s full-scale invasion of its neighbour in February last year.
In its first full report in March, the team determined that Russian authorities had committed ‘a wide range of war crimes’.
Mose said at the time that the commission was aware of accusations of genocide, including the forced transfer of Ukrainian children to areas under Russian control, and vowed to investigate.
In his update on the situation on Monday, he said the commission had ‘continued to investigate individual situations of alleged transfers of unaccompanied minors by Russian authorities to the Russian Federation’.
‘It regrets that there is a lack of clarity and transparency on the full extent, circumstances, and categories of children transferred,’ he said.
‘The commission is of the view that insufficient knowledge about the precise number and circumstances of children transferred may hamper an expeditious return process.’
The March report had also determined that Moscow was behind a vast array of other war crimes, including widespread attacks on civilians and infrastructure, killings, torture and rape and other sexual violence.
Mose said on Monday that the commission, which had travelled more than 10 times to Ukraine, was now ‘undertaking a more in-depth investigation’ that ‘may also clarify whether torture and attacks on energy infrastructure amount to crimes against humanity’.
Among other things, he said the team was investigating the cause of the disastrous destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam in Russian-held territory on June 6.
The commission had also ‘collected further evidence indicating that the use of torture by Russian armed forces in areas under their control has been widespread and systematic’, he said.
The torture was mainly taking place in various detention centres controlled by Russian authorities, he said, adding that in some cases it was ‘inflicted with such brutality that it caused the death of the victim’.
And in the Kherson region, the commission had found that ‘Russian soldiers raped and committed sexual violence against women of ages ranging from 19 to 83 years’.
Such acts were often accompanied by ‘threats or commission of other violations’, Mose said, adding that ‘frequently, family members were kept in an adjacent room, thereby forced to hear the violations taking place’.
‘The commission reiterates its deep concern at the scale and gravity of violations and corresponding crimes that have been committed in Ukraine by Russian armed forces,’ he told the council, emphasising ‘the need for accountability’.
The team, he said, also recalled the need for the Ukrainian authorities ‘to expeditiously and thoroughly investigate the few cases of violations by its own forces’.