In the invasion of Ukraine and occupation of Ukrainian land since 2014, Russia has committed many acts of terrorism. It is guilty of mass murder, extensive destruction of civilian properties, mass abduction, including the abduction of children on a systemic scale, rape, torture and environmental destruction. Evidence now being accumulated proves that Russia is a state sponsor of terrorism – a terrorist state.

We were recently part of a UK Friends of Ukraine Parliamentary delegation that heard from survivors of Russian terrorism in the village of Yahidne, in the Chernihiv region. From March 3, 2022 to March 30, 2022, Russian occupiers locked in an underground basement in Yahidne 380 men, women and children, the youngest just over a month old and the oldest was 93 years old.

Over 60 children were held in the basement. It included the one-year-old granddaughter of a lady who spoke to our delegation. Eleven died, including seven executed by Russian occupiers. Many children were held and tortured in incredibly cramped conditions, denied food, drink, medicine, light and toilet facilities. Many developed eye problems.

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Russian soldiers refused to let people leave and they weren’t allowed to bring any possessions. Dead bodies would lie in the same cramped room as everyone else for days.

Ukrainian forces would eventually liberate Yahidne and free the residents. They witnessed a destroyed village and ransacked homes. For 27 days the villagers experienced the barbarism and hell that Russia wants to impose on all of Ukraine through their terrorism.

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PULL QUOTE: The acts of terrorism are inspired by the Kremlin’s ideological commitment through Russian imperialism to destroy the independence of Ukraine and subjugate it to Russia through terrorizing Ukrainian civilians.

Russia’s terrorism continues to the present day. On the evening of Feb. 18, 2024, Russian forces bombarded Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, hitting a school, destroying two houses and damaging 23 more in Kramatorsk. Rescuers found the body of a security guard from the rubble of a school in Sloviansk. The terrorist attack murdered a family in Kramatorsk, including a grandmother, mother and son. Russian terrorism is ripping generations of Ukrainian families apart.

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Actions specifically defined as terrorism by the UK Government in the Terrorism Act of 2000 include:

  • Serious violence against a person;
  • Serious damage to property;
  • Endangering a person’s life (other than that of the person committing the action);
  • Creating a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public.

The legislation states that “The use or threat must also be for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause.” We believe Russia’s actions in Ukraine since 2014 involving the mass targeting of Ukrainian civilians is state terrorism.

After all, the acts of terrorism are inspired by the Kremlin’s ideological commitment through Russian imperialism to destroy the independence of Ukraine and subjugate it to Russia through terrorizing Ukrainian civilians. Indeed, in a speech shortly before the full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, Putin explicitly denied that Ukraine had ever had “real statehood” and that the country was an integral part of Russia’s “own history, culture, spiritual space.”

Since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24, 2022, Russian soldiers and its proxies are bombing, destroying and committing mass murder based on indiscriminately targeting Ukrainian civilians, their property and Ukraine’s land. In fact, since the full-scale invasion began, according to figures provided by the Ukrainian government, as of Feb. 23, 2024 at least 10,582 Ukrainian civilians have been murdered, 19,875 civilians injured, 528 children murdered, 167,200 civilian buildings destroyed, and 126,037 war crimes registered. Actual numbers might be considerably higher, as information from many locations with intense hostilities is not yet available or confirmed.

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The Russian state has endangered Ukrainian civilians’ lives, with civilian buildings deliberately targeted in Russia’s mass bombardment of Ukraine. Furthermore, extensive evidence of war crimes in liberated and occupied Ukrainian territory, as well as Russia’s crimes against the environment, including the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka Dam in Kherson region in June 2023, illustrate that Russia is creating a serious risk to the health and safety of the Ukrainian public.

It is perverse that the UK government have proscribed a terrorist group working directly for the president of a hostile country, but do not yet have a mechanism for said country to be designated a state sponsor of terrorism.

Some will say that the definition of terrorism does not apply to state sponsors of terrorism, but the Terrorism Act of 2000 highlights that this is not the case. The Act notes that “The use or threat of action, as set out above, which involves the use of firearms or explosives is terrorism regardless of whether or not the action is designed to influence the government or an international governmental organization or to intimidate the public or a section of the public.” Importantly the legislation recognizes terrorism outside of the UK.

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Unlike the US, the UK does not currently have a mechanism for designating a country a state sponsor of terrorism. That does not mean though, the UK cannot introduce legislation to make it possible to designate a nation as a state sponsor of terrorism. Furthermore, in September 2023, the UK proscribed Wagner Group as a terrorist organization. This Russian, state controlled, mercenary organization has committed barbaric acts in Ukraine on behalf of the Russian state, but also in other countries, such as Syria, Mali, Libya, Sudan and the Central African Republic.

Since the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, when Wagner fighters were assimilated into the command structure of the Russian military and some rebranded as the African Corps, it now acts fully as a terrorist arm of the Russian state.

It is perverse that the UK government have proscribed a terrorist group working directly for the president of a hostile country, but do not yet have a mechanism for said country to be designated for what it is, a state sponsor of terrorism. If the Wagner Group is a terrorist organization, so too is the Russian state, who through its Army is carrying out terrorism on a far greater scale than the Wagner Group in Ukraine.

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We note that the EU parliament passed a symbolic resolution in November 2022 declaring Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, following the lead of Parliamentary resolutions in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. However, we need more than symbolism. Declaring Russia a terrorist state should come alongside concrete action to move from freezing Russian assets to seizing them, to fund Ukraine’s reconstruction. Since the full-scale invasion the UK has frozen £18 billion ($22.7 billion) of Russian assets. This much needed funding would be equivalent to £650 ($821) being donated by every household in the UK.

By the government’s own definition of terrorism and legislation, Russia is guilty of state sponsored terrorism. That is why we are calling on the UK government to become the first G7 nation to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism and for the UK parliament to put pressure on the UK government to do so by passing a vote in favor of recognizing Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Alongside measures like seizing Russian assets, the UK government should call a spade a spade by recognizing Russia as a terrorist state and make them pay for their terrorism.

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To learn more about the campaign and find out how you can support it, please read our report on why Russia is a terrorist state and sign our petition.

The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post. 

 

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