Fact Check: Russian Military Strategy Does NOT Reduce Civilian Casualties

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Fact Check: Russian Military Strategy Does NOT Reduce Civilian Casualties Not Peaceful

Have Russian military forces reduced civilian casualties to the lowest possible level? No, that's not true: The Ukrainian civilian population has faced immense devastation due to the armed conflict that erupted in Ukraine following Russia's complete invasion on February 24, 2022.

Russian forces have committed numerous violations of international humanitarian law, including indiscriminate and disproportionate bombing and shelling of populated areas. Numerous assaults have used explosive weaponry with low and high accuracy, including cluster munitions, guided aerial bombs, and guided missiles.

The claim "Russians do everything to avoid killing civilians" mentioned by Scott Ritter, appeared in a TikTok video (archived here) where it was published by @tomas_spacek_republika on May 4, 2023, under the title "Scott Ritter - former US Marine Corps intelligence officer and UN weapons inspector". It opened:

The Russians not only follow the law of war, but they go one level further. If you study the Battle of Mariupol, you see stories of Russian marines who sacrificed everything to fight their way to a building and evacuate civilians hiding in the basement. On the way to get them away, they suffered losses. And only then did they attack the enemy. They went the extra mile to save lives.

Snímka obrazovky 2023-06-12 o 8.43.09.png

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Mon Jun 12 08:010:45 2023 CET)

In areas they occupied, Russian or Russian-affiliated forces have committed alleged war crimes and potential crimes against humanity, including summary executions, torture, sexual violence, enforced disappearances, and the pillage of art and cultural artifacts. Civilians who attempted to flee areas of fighting faced numerous obstacles. In some cases, Russian forces forcibly transferred significant numbers of Ukrainian civilians to Russian or Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, which is a war crime.

Examples of Russian war crimes on civilians

Bucha massacre

At the end of March 2022, when Russian troops retreated from Bucha, a suburb near Ukraine's capital, they left visible reminders. According to Reuters, bodies were strewn in the streets, quaint houses were reduced to rubble, and a field near the town's church had become a mass grave. Human Rights Watch researchers who worked in Bucha from April 4 to 10, days after Russian forces withdrew from the area, found extensive evidence of summary executions, other unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, and torture, all of which would constitute war crimes and potential crimes against humanity. Many politicians , including the President of the Slovak Republic, labeled the Bucha massacre as the symbol of the worst that human beings are capable of.

Bombing of civil infrastructure in Kharkiv

Russian forces have assaulted Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, with repeated unlawful attacks that killed and wounded civilians and damaged healthcare facilities and homes, said Human Rights Watch. All of the attacks that Human Rights Watch documented were carried out in populated areas indiscriminately including using explosive weapons with wide area effects and widely banned cluster munitions, in apparent violation of international humanitarian law, or the laws of war. They found eight unlawful incidents of attacks that killed 12 civilians, wounded 26 others, and damaged at least 5 hospital buildings. "There's no logic to it, it's just terror against the local population, to sow panic and to destroy critical infrastructure," said Kharkiv's regional governor Oleh Synehubov in an interview with the Guardian.

Rape as a tactic of war

According to the United Nations, sexual violence is the most hidden crime' being committed against Ukrainians by Russian soldiers. They call for an end to the use of rape as a tactic of war. The Kremlin stands accused of terrorizing the Ukrainian population with sexual violence in a systematic and unsparing manner.

As of June 3, 2022, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had received reports of 124 alleged acts of conflict-related sexual assaults across Ukraine -- mostly against women and girls -- and a national hotline had received reports of crimes ranging from gang rape to coercion to watch an act of sexual violence committed against a partner or a child.

UN Commission documented patterns of summary executions, unlawful confinement, torture, ill-treatment, rape, and other sexual violence committed in areas occupied by Russian armed forces across the four regions on which it focused on Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Sumy. People have been detained, some have been unlawfully deported to the Russian Federation, and many are still reported missing. Sexual violence has affected victims of all ages. Victims, including children, were sometimes forced to witness the crimes.

Who is Scott Ritter?

He is a former United States Marine Corps intelligence officer. He became known in the 1990s and early 2000s when he formed the opposition to the Gulf War and the subsequent war on terror. He was later convicted for sexual misconduct with a minor and served one and a half years in prison. Starting in December 2019, Ritter began contributing comments to Russia Today, where he began disseminating Kremlin propaganda. On April 6, 2022, Ritter was banned from Twitter for violating its "harassment and abuse" policy after he posted a tweet falsely claiming that the National Police of Ukraine was responsible for the Bucha massacre and calling US President Joe Biden a "war criminal" and for "trying to shift the blame for the Bucha murders" to Russia. However, there is a lot of evidence that Russia is behind the massacre. Scott Ritter is presented as an expert on the conflict in Ukraine on Slovak social media platforms, but according to Slovak police, he is just spreading Russian propaganda.

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