Despite constant casualties and atrocities the war brings, Russian citizens continue to support their government’s military actions against Ukraine. That’s why there are many discussions about whether it is possible under criminal law to punish Russians for approving the Kremlin’s actions.

British lawyer Philippe Sands says he is concerned that the entire country of Russia and all its citizens have been labeled as criminals. He expressed his opinion in an interview with the Kyiv Post.

“Under international law, a crime is an exclusively individual act that must be proven in each case. Those who give orders to act, are actively involved, or contribute to the act are responsible,” the lawyer said. ” But the general population – I find it very hard to reach the conclusion there is a criminal responsibility simply for being a citizen of a certain country.”


Sands stressed that we could not talk about guilt based on national identity or some unproven complicity. It is necessary “to look at people and actualize who orders, who does the killing, who does the torturing,” who is a direct accomplice to the crimes, and whom the investigators should focus on.

“For being criminally responsible, you need more than supporting an idea – you have to be actively involved and to contribute to the act. Even if the population really shares the idea, it is not sufficient,” the expert said.

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Therefore, supporting the idea of Russian war in Ukraine does not make Russian citizens criminals from the point of view of international law. But the lawyer agrees that this is a complicated issue and it’s not easy to find the right answer.

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