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European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders (file photo)

EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders has vowed that war crimes in Ukraine will be criminally prosecuted and that atrocities committed during the Russian invasion "will not go unpunished."

Reynders told the Italian daily La Stampa on May 21 that 11 EU member states were investigating war crimes in Ukraine with more than 600 suspects identified so far.

Reynders said investigations were proceeding in Ukraine but also in various other European countries with testimony from people who fled the violence.

He cautioned that evidence of war crimes must be collected correctly or else, "if you were to include false information or fake news, it would be a disaster."

Ukraine has accused Russia of committing atrocities during its unprovoked invasion and said it has identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes.

Despite ample, concrete evidence of Russian attacks on civilian areas documented by reporters, including RFE/RL correspondents on the ground, Moscow denies targeting civilian areas. Russia also claims that evidence of atrocities presented by Ukraine was staged.

On May 19, prosecutors in Kyiv asked a court for a life sentence for the first Russian soldier to stand trial on accusations of committing a war crime in Ukraine.

With reporting by dpa
At a forum in Vilnius on May 20, Garry Kasparov told reporters that the Russian public does not yet understand that the war is heading toward defeat and "Putin's dictatorship will not survive." (file photo)

The Russian Justice Ministry has added Kremlin critics Garry Kasparov, a former world chess champion, and Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oil tycoon, to its registry of "foreign agents."

The two prominent critics of the Russian government, both of whom live abroad, were labeled "foreign agents" for their connections to Ukraine, the ministry said on May 20.

The ministry said that Khodorkovsky, 58, and Kasparov, 59, had "sources" in Ukraine to finance their activities. Kasparov's ties to a U.S. human rights organization were also cited as a reason.

Those on the "foreign agents" registry must meet several requirements, including financial reporting and an obligation to label all posts on social media with a disclaimer. Violations are subject to administrative and criminal liability.

Russia has used the "foreign agents" label extensively against opponents, journalists, and human rights activists accused of conducting foreign-funded political activities.

Kasparov has lived in the United States for almost a decade. Khodorkovsky was one of Russia's most powerful businessmen in the 1990s before clashing with the Kremlin when President Vladimir Putin came to power. He spent 10 years in prison on charges widely seen as political revenge for challenging Putin politically and then moved to London.

For years, he helped to finance the Russian opposition organization Open Russia, which dissolved itself in May 2021 in the face of growing repression.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky speaks in Vilnius at a forum in August 2021.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky speaks in Vilnius at a forum in August 2021.

In addition, two online publications, Open Media and the MBKh news sites, and a legal aid group, Human Rights Postcards, backed by Khodorkovsky ceased operations in August after the sites were blocked by the Russian authorities.

Kasparov and Khodorkovsky, who actively oppose Putin and the war in Ukraine, participated in a conference organized by the Free Russia Forum on May 20 in Vilnius to discuss the consequences of the Kremlin's war in Ukraine for Russia and Europe.

Kasparov told reporters after a meeting with Lithuanian parliament speaker Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen that the Russian public does not yet understand that the war is heading toward defeat and "Putin's dictatorship will not survive."

According to the Baltic Times, Kasparov said sanctions against Russia should remain in place until it compensates Ukraine for war damage and those guilty of war crimes are brought to justice.

"Even if someone says the sanctions are not working, this is going to take time because the sanctions are actually stifling the Russian economy, and no Russian government can survive if the sanctions continue," he said.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and the Baltic Times

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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