By Emma Farge
GENEVA – U.N.-appointed investigators are looking into whether Russia’s attacks on critical infrastructure in Ukraine amount to war crimes, one of the inspection team said on Friday.
Russia has been pounding Ukraine’s electricity infrastructure since early October, causing blackouts and leaving millions without heating as temperatures plummet.
Russia says the assaults do not target civilians and are meant to reduce Ukraine’s ability to fight and push it to negotiate – though Kyiv says such attacks are a war crime.
“Part of the analysis that we are engaged in at present … is whether the attacks constitute war crimes,” Pablo de Greiff told a news conference, speaking from Kyiv.
If they do, the team would work out what it “can do in order to make a contribution to the accountability for such crimes,” he added.
The three-member commission of inquiry established by the U.N. Human Rights Council in March has already concluded that Russia committed war crimes in areas it occupied in Ukraine.
Moscow regularly dismisses such accusations as a smear campaign.
Another of the investigators, Jasminka Džumhurs, said the group had been interviewing Ukrainian mothers and was particularly concerned about the impact of the attacks on children’s rights.
Many cannot attend schools which have been damaged or demolished, and power cuts are disrupting online classes, she said.
“These events have devastating consequences for a large number of people,” Erik Møse, the chair of the commission of inquiry, said. “It goes without saying that this is something we are looking into.”
The commission is collecting additional evidence which it is due to present to the Geneva-based rights council in March, members of the team said.
Past investigations launched by the council have provided evidence used before national and international courts.