A protester against Russian invasion of Ukraine holds a sign that reads “Who Will Stop Putin” in front of Brandenburg gate on Feb. 24, 2022, in Berlin, Germany. (Hannibal Hanschke/Getty Images)
The CIA posts a list online of the world’s most notorious international terrorist groups. There, you’ll find names and descriptions for some 65 organizations, like al-Qaeda, the group that slaughtered nearly 3,000 Americans at the World Trade Center on 9-11.
There’s Boko Haram in Nigeria, which kidnapped 300 schoolgirls in 2014, marrying many of them off to soldiers or trafficking them on the black market. More than 100 of the girls remain missing.
There’s the Islamic State, or ISIS, with its goal to “replace the world order” with a global modern-day caliphate. Beginning in 2014, ISIS managed to seize huge swaths of Iraq and Syria before getting pushed back by a U.S.-led global coalition.
Not on that CIA list of foreign terrorist groups? Russia, despite a year of waging an unprovoked war against not only Ukraine’s military but its civilian population of more than 40 million people.
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The world should be echoing Kira Rudik, a member of Ukraine’s parliament, who recently wrote that “It’s time to call a spade a spade: Russia is a terrorist state…” that’s deliberately using “terrorist attacks against the civilian population as a tactic of this war.”
Over the past year, Russia has morphed from an economically faltering, nuclear-armed, autocracy into a de facto terrorist group that’s proven it is willing to do just about anything to keep from losing its wholly immoral war against Ukraine, like trying to kill as many unarmed Ukrainian civilians as possible — and threatening to use nuclear weapons.
Vice President Kamala Harris, at a recent meeting of the Munich Security Conference, proclaimed the United States had concluded that Russia is committing crimes against humanity in Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his military, Harris said, have waged a “systemic attack against [Ukraine’s] civilian population …”
Among Russia’s most heinous acts of terror over the past year was the virtual obliteration of Mariupol, a once idyllic port city that’s been all but erased from the map since the start of the Russian assault there on Feb. 24, 2022.
Here’s how the Guardian newspaper described the early days of the attacks on the city by Russian troops:
Within a few days, the city is encircled. Almost immediately, the Russians hit the electricity, water and gas supplies. People melt snow for water and cook outside over open flames. Phone reception disappears, creating an information vacuum. The last shops close their doors, soon to be looted by people desperate for food. As the fighting becomes more intense, people drag mattresses into the stairwell of their apartment blocks or move into their dark and freezing basements. Some people are too old or too frail to move. Most of them will not survive.
The images of Mariupol’s ruins today recall the carpet bombing of Dresden, Germany by American and British aircraft in World War II and atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
A year since the start of the invasion of Mariupol, Ukrainian authorities tell the Associated Press the estimated death toll there could rise as high as 75,000.
The city’s pre-war population was about 425,000. About one-quarter of that population remains. The rest were either forced to flee, were killed or were captured and sent to Russia.
As the war drags on, hundreds more Ukrainian cities and villages nationwide have had to face the brutality of Russian troops.
In early February, in remarks at the Georgetown Law School in Washington, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin alleged that 65,000 Russian war crimes had been committed since the beginning of the war.
“We have all witnessed with horror the evidence of atrocities committed in Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol, Izium, Kherson, Kharkiv regions and other liberated cities and towns,” said Kostin. “These crimes are not incidental or accidental, they include indiscriminate shelling of civilians, willful killing, torture, conflict-related sexual violence, looting and forced displacement on a massive scale.”
Human Rights Watch found in World Report 2023 that, in the past year, “Russian forces have killed, arbitrarily detained, tortured, and forcibly disappeared civilians. Detainees reported beatings, electric shocks, mock executions, and water boarding, among other torture and mistreatment.”
The United Nations reports that, from Feb. 24 to Oct. 21, 2022, it documented “86 cases of sexual violence, most by Russian forces, including rape, gang rape, forced nudity, and forced public stripping in various regions of Ukraine and in one penitentiary facility in Russia. Women, including older women, and girls constituted the majority of reported victims and survivors.”
Speaking in Munich, Vice President Harris recounted a story of Russian soldiers raping a four-year-old girl.
Russia’s latest terrorist tactics include wide-scale efforts to knock out Ukraine’s energy infrastructure aimed at cutting off electricity, heat and water service nationwide at the peak of winter. The resulting suffering for the country’s elderly, disabled and impoverished in Ukraine must be unimaginable.
One day, this war will end victoriously for Ukraine.
The question then will be how the world will hold to account the most powerful terrorist group on the planet, Russia, for the crimes it has committed against the people of Ukraine.
In a recent address to his nation, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky had this to say: “Every Russian attack … on every corner of our state will have concrete legal consequences for the terrorist state [Russia].”
For the sake of all Ukrainians, I hope he’s right.
Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: [email protected]. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.
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