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Russia Responds To Military Strikes With Attacks On Civilians
The rationale behind Russia’s tactics in Ukraine is becoming increasingly elusive.
A core principle of the Geneva Conventions, to which Russia is a signatory, is that civilians and civilian infrastructure are not legitimate military targets. Yet Russia is increasingly eschewing legitimate military targets to strike at civilians and noncombatants, as highlighted by their latest attack on a Ukrainian grain shipment.
Russian forces on Monday shelled Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Ochakiv, ”hitting two port civilian tugboats, which were involved in the transportation of a barge with grain,” Ukraine’s Operational Command South said on its Facebook page. As a result, “a fire broke out and control of the vessels was lost. Two crew members were killed, one was rescued with injuries, the fate of another is unknown.”
The attack was in apparent retaliation for Ukraine’s kamikaze drone strike against Sevastopol, the Crimean port city which serves as headquarters for Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.
There is, however, a crucial distinction: a fleet headquarters is a legitimate military target, while a grain shipment is not. The depiction by Russia of the attack as a “terrorist” act does not alter the military value of the target.
Regardless of Russia’s initial rationale for invading Ukraine, regardless of the legitimacy of Russian security concerns regarding Ukraine, there is no escaping the uncomfortable reality that Russia’s tactics of retaliation are increasingly looking like war crimes rather than war.
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