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Russia employed deliberate starvation tactics in Mariupol - The Guardian

Russia employed deliberate starvation tactics in Mariupol - The Guardian Photo: Russia used deliberate starvation tactics in Mariupol (Getty Images)
Author: Liliana Oleniak

Russia used deliberate starvation tactics during the seizure of Mariupol in February 2022. Lawyers say that the strategy of depriving the city's residents of food during the blockade can be equated to a war crime, according to The Guardian.

According to a new analysis submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC), Russia used a "deliberate pattern" of starvation tactics during the 85-day siege of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol in early 2022, which amounted to a war crime.

The opinion is the basis of a dossier that is currently being submitted to the ICC in The Hague by Global Rights Compliance lawyers working with the Ukrainian government. It alleges that Russia and its leaders intended to kill and harm a large number of civilians.

It is estimated that Russia killed 22,000 people during the encirclement and capture of the city of Mariupol at the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Civilians were left without water, gas, and electricity for days after the siege as temperatures dropped below minus 10°C.

Catriona Murdoch, partner at Global Rights Compliance, said the purpose of the study was "to see if there was a broader narrative" that the Russian military and its leadership are deliberately denying food and other necessities of life - a strategy of starvation that could be called a war crime.

"What we could see is that there were four phases to the Russian assault, starting with attacks on civilian infrastructure, cutting out the supply of electricity, heating, and water. Then humanitarian evacuations were denied and even attacked, while aid was prevented from getting through," Murdoch says.

In the third stage, she says, Russia targeted critical infrastructure, Ukrainian civilians were terrorized with aid, and water points were bombed.

"Finally, in phase four, Russia engaged in strategic attacks to destroy or capture any remaining infrastructure items," she adds.

The phased attack on Mariupol, she says, demonstrated that Russia planned to capture the frontline city without mercy for its civilian population, which was estimated at 450,000 before Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, 2022.

The dossier concludes that Russia destroyed about 90% of the medical facilities and buildings in the city during the siege, and bombed food distribution points and humanitarian evacuation routes.

Given the importance of Mariupol and the centralization of Russian decision-making, the blame for the deaths of thousands of civilians lies at the very top, the report says.

"Vladimir Putin is culpable,” Murdoch said, “and echelons of the Russian military leadership," Murdoch says.

Russian capture of Mariupol

Russian troops occupied Mariupol at the beginning of a large-scale invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022. After that, the city turned into a place of concentration and transfer of resources to the front line, in particular to the Berdiansk direction.

In May 2022, it was reported that the Russian occupiers had killed 25,000 people in Mariupol. Most of the deaths were caused by Russian aggression. In particular, large-scale burial sites were found in the city.