Russia’s crimes are a long-running horror show

A gravedigger pauses while preparing the ground for a funeral at a cemetery on April 20, 2022, in Irpin, Ukraine. The first several rows contain the bodies of people killed during the Russian occupation of the area.

There have been dozens of such reports — fastidious, documented, footnoted — weighing in collectively at who-knows-how-many pages. Their heft alone, along with their repetitive sameness, exerts a numbing effect. Who can absorb such an endless litany of crushing cruelty?

Yet the evidence attesting to Russia atrocities in Ukraine also obscures an essential fact: It represents a small fraction measured against the likely scale of atrocities carried out by President Vladimir Putin’s forces.We know that because we know this: Notwithstanding the lurid accounts detailing systematic torture, rape, execution and other forms of abuse deployed by Moscow’s troops, independent investigators are denied access to territory seized by Russian forces.

That matters in what has become a static war, with front lines barely budging for months. It means the Kremlin’s commanders have time to eliminate traces of physical evidence as well as civilians who might bear witness to crimes. And it means that testimony gathered so far by international monitors comes mainly from survivors who manage to leave after Russian troops occupied their towns and villages. Those caught behind the lines are beyond reach.

Yet even from a limited sampling, and in the dry lexicon of U.N. commission reports, the abominations perpetrated by Russian security services and soldiers are plain., released Oct. 20, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, established by the U.N. Human Rights Council, recounted what it called evidence of war crimes. It includes details of electric shocks routinely used to torture detained Ukrainian civilians, a form of torture that Russian forces term “a call to Putin.

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