War crimes experts also point to technological advances in forensic tools like facial identification software not available to those looking into earlier conflicts, and the sheer number of investigators on the ground in Ukraine — crucially, with the government’s blessing. A dozen French investigators joined the inquiries this week.
“There will be prosecutions, and probably all over the world,” said Leila Sadat, an international law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, and a longtime adviser to the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on crimes against humanity. “Ukraine is actually crawling with war crimes investigators right now.”
Still, experts warned that the process would be slow, and that any early indictments would most likely be against lower-ranking Russian officials and armed-service members. Russia, which has described the accusations as fictional or unfounded, is not expected to cooperate in any prosecution.
The report released Wednesday by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a 57-member organization based in Vienna that includes Russia, Ukraine and the United States, is one of the first in-depth studies of human rights abuses during Russia’s offensive against Ukraine.
Investigators looked at some of the most notorious attacks and other violent acts of the war, including Russia’s bombings of a theater and a maternity hospital in the besieged city of Mariupol, both depicted in the report as apparent war crimes.
They also pored through accounts of other horrific, if less visible, acts of violence. “There are allegations of rapes, including gang rapes, committed by Russian soldiers in many other regions in Ukraine,” they wrote.