Russia’s atrocities in Ukraine must end

It’s crucial to understand that what we are seeing in the wake of the Russian withdrawal is more than the consequence of war, because even in war, there are basic rules.



April 4, 2022 - 4:36 PM

People, mainly women and children, arrive at Przemysl train station after journeying from war-torn Ukraine on March 30, 2022, in Przemysl, Poland. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images/TNS)

It’s hard to read the reports emerging from Bucha and other Kyiv suburbs, and nearly impossible to look at the images. Retreating Russian soldiers have left evidence of unthinkable brutality. Ordinary men and women lie dead on the street, in the dark mud and dirt, many shot, some with hands tied behind their back. People were found still clutching shopping bags, one splayed next to a tangled bicycle. There are mass graves, and there’s evidence of torture. Ukrainian authorities say the bodies of 410 civilians have been recovered from towns around the capital.

Even without knowing precisely what happened, it’s clear that Bucha and incidents like it are an outrage: war crimes of hideous proportions. But this should not come as a shock. Russian forces have used just such tactics before, and will do so again — unless Europe, the U.S. and other allied nations move swiftly on the back of this horror. They need to make the cost of this war not just steep for Russia, whose economy has begun to stabilize since massive sanctions were first imposed, but intolerable. And yes, that means advancing beyond efforts to close loopholes for banks and technology, and tackling, at last, Russian oil and gas exports.

Naysayers in Brussels and elsewhere are right to fear the impact of such measures on consumers at home. There would be an inflationary shock and a hit to growth in Europe. But there is no credible option that comes at zero cost. And Western leaders should remember that this is not about avenging Bucha or any other single town — it’s about preventing the many other atrocities that Russian forces, ill-disciplined and dealing with citizens dehumanized by Kremlin propaganda, will undoubtedly commit. Inaction costs lives and endangers us all.

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