Russian leaders know they are committing war crimes. Their manual of the laws of war says so.

The Russian armed forces and their commanders know they are committing war crimes in Ukraine. This is stated in the “Handbook of International Humanitarian Law for the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation” of 2001.

In my 2017 book, “The Law of War in the 21st Century”, I thought it might be useful for readers and researchers to have examples of non-NATO views on the law of armed conflict. , so in an appendix I have included law of war manuals which might be difficult to find, including the Russian manual from 2001. The translation was made by a sworn translator from an original in my possession.

The manual requires commanders to be aware that, in general, attacks are prohibited against targets such as concentrations of civilians, their homes, infrastructure necessary for their survival, nuclear power plants and cultural icons. It also clarifies that attacks on targets using weapons such as indirect artillery and missile fire, indiscriminate automatic weapon fire and landmines can constitute separate war crimes.

“Civilian” is defined in the manual as “any person present in the area of ​​combat operations, who is not a member of the armed forces and refrains from any act of hostility”. The manual warns: “Particularly dangerous objects are nuclear power plants…the destruction of which can release dangerous destructive factors and lead to serious casualties among the civilian population. Such objects must not become the object of attack, even if they are military objectives, if their attack could lead to the aforementioned consequences. » This rule has not been applied to Chernobyl or the Zaporizhzhia Complex.

The manual says to a commander: “In planning and conducting combat operations, the commander and his staff must take into account the rules of international humanitarian law. Prohibited methods of warfare include “killing or injuring civilians…taking hostages…terrorizing the civilian population; the use of starvation of civilians to achieve military objectives, the destruction, removal or reduction to uselessness of objects indispensable to their survival… the destruction of cultural property, historical monuments, places of worship and other objects of the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples…; destroy or capture enemy property, unless required by military necessity; ordering the plunder of a town or place.

In addition, “the following is prohibited [during] combat operations: “traps placed outside a military objective and attached in any way to, or associated with… corpses; burial or cremation sites, graves[.]“If the bodies were mine in Bucha, it was another direct violation.

The manual warns:

In accordance with … criminal legislation of the Russian Federation, perpetrators of violations of international humanitarian law can be held criminally responsible. These violations include actions against persons and property protected by international humanitarian law: intentional homicide, torture or inhuman treatment…willfully causing great suffering or serious injury, or damage to health; … hostage-taking ; intentionally making the civilian population or individual civilians, …, an object of attack if it causes death or serious bodily injury, or damage to health; unlawful arrest; … illegal deportation … of the civilian population of the occupied territory beyond its borders;

The actions of the occupying forces must respect the rules of international humanitarian law. The commander … in the occupied territory is obliged, …, to take all possible measures to ensure public order and security, to prevent pillage and illegal confiscation of property. … The life, family, property, customs of the civilian population must be respected.

In addition, “the search, collection, identification and burial of deceased members of enemy armed forces as well as other victims of armed conflicts must be organized immediately, as soon as the situation permits and carried out[…]to establish the identity of the dead (deceased) and bury them with dignity and respect, as required by ethical principles.

There are many other requirements, but the ones above have clearly been violated in the shelling and shelling of kyiv, Kharkiv and Mariupol, the murders in Bucha, the evictions of Mariupol in Russia, and the mistreatment of civilians in many occupied towns and villages.

Are these rules important?

When I last served in the US Army in 1991, I wrote the investigation into the war crimes of Saddam Hussein and his entourage. We had nothing to do with the levels of evidence present in Ukraine, but we concluded that the Iraqi leadership was guilty of numerous war crimes. I would have been impatient to have an Iraqi manual. This Russian manual is clear evidence that Russian military leaders are aware that their actions and inaction in Ukraine constitute war crimes. In any trial, the playbook provides the necessary nexus to demonstrate that Russian leaders are legally responsible for the unlawful attacks and destruction of civilians and their homes, cultural monuments and nuclear power plants.

By their own words, they are doomed.

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