Putin’s ambition of re-conquering all the domains of the Imperial and Soviet Russias appears to have run up against a truly immovable resistance.
That’s good; his project is abominable.
But even before the recent pictures from Bucha made soft-pedaling the response to this invasion even more difficult for western politicians, it was already obvious that the only moral ending this can have is the downfall of the Russian State.
Beyond the simple fact that the invasion is itself an atrocity, it was already obvious that the Russian army was committing atrocities on a large scale, from targeting medical facilities to murdering protesters in the streets.
But those are predominantly military actions that the State can be held responsible for, and Russia could probably have gotten away with it by giving up Putin and a few close associates.
But the Russian army have gone much farther than that.
Now it is undeniable that Russian forces carried out genuinely barbaric abuses on the captured population, and perpetrated an unknown number mass killings.
There are also several reports of Russian troops mass-transporting Ukrainian populations across the border into Russia.
These are not only individual crimes for which specific perpetrators must be held accountable, but they’re clearly on a scale that they could not have happened without the knowledge and encouragement of the Russian State.
These are crimes that demand justice from more than just the country’s rulers.
Identifying the perpetrators of the lootings, rapes and murders will require access to witnesses and documentation.
Identifying and returning all of the captured Ukrainians will require access to records and facilities all over Russia.
The Russian government will have to give the investigators of these crimes full and unfettered access to the personnel and records of the army and supporting bureaucracies.
For the world to accept anything less than full cooperation from Russia would be a moral crime.
And I do not expect Russia to cooperate in pursuing justice for Ukrainians.
Opinion polling in a dictatorship is fraught with problems, but all the evidence does seem to suggest that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has significant domestic support and we cannot expect those supporters to assist with foreign criminal investigations.
And I do not think Ukraine by themselves will be able to force Russia to cooperate. As amazing a job as they’ve done so far, I really don’t think they’ll be able to do much more than to push the invaders out of Ukraine.
And as the victims, Ukraine really should not be in charge of the investigations anyway.
The military powers of Europe and the United States must get involved directly.
It’s bad enough that our nations allowed this to to happen; we must not allow the perpetrators to just walk away.