A spokesman for the elite forces said Ukraine’s special forces were “heavily involved” in hunting down Russians guilty of atrocities.
Lt-Colonel Oleksandr Kindratenko told Metro.co.uk that operators will try to hold those responsible accountable War crimes and other post-victory brutalities on the battlefield.
The representative of Ukraine’s Special Operations Forces (SOF) said that the “warriors” are ready to join forces with Kiev’s intelligence and security services to track down the perpetrators anywhere in the world.
Last week, Metro.co.uk reported that the civilian-led coalition “Tribunal 4 Putin” was registering Russian war crimes on a daily basis, with the number currently standing at more than 45,000 since the start of the full-scale invasion.
The International Criminal Court has issued a war crimes arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin, and a number of international civil and state agencies and organizations are busy documenting and recording new cases every day.
“The main motivation of the Ukrainian SOF warriors is to liberate our country and achieve victory,” Lt. Col. Kindratenko said.
“But after victory, our motivation will be to make sure everyone responsible for crimes is held accountable and to do everything possible to prevent Russia from starting aggression against other nations in the region.”
“We spill our blood and sweat so other countries don’t know what it’s like.”
A glimpse into Russian atrocities in places like Bucha and Mariupol have influenced the mindset of Ukrainian soldiers, as a SOF sniper earlier this week told how he channeled his “cold anger” into his work on the battlefield in the eastern Donbass region.
In some cases, operators did not have to look far as Moscow troops recorded their brutality and shared it on social media.
A gruesome example came in April 2023, when video emerged that appeared to show Russian soldiers beheading a Ukrainian prisoner of war.
“It is a matter of principle and honor for the Ukrainian SOF to hold Russia accountable for all these terrible atrocities,” the senior officer said.
“I am convinced that the Ukrainian SOF, together with other intelligence and security agencies, will be instrumental in bringing all these war criminals to justice.” The SOF is ready to carry out all operations and missions directed by higher military and political commands become.
“Furthermore, we are closely monitoring and tracking any atrocities that the occupiers are filming and publishing online. I am more than sure that all these criminals will be punished and SOF will play its part in this process.
“No matter where they are in the world, we will definitely find them.”
“The attacker’s responsibility for the crimes must be unavoidable.”
Lt. Col. Kindratenko’s stern warning raises the risk that Russians and their proxies who committed or facilitated war crimes will be hunted well beyond Ukraine’s borders in covert, integrated operations.
SOF units currently active on the battlefield include the 8th Separate Regiment active in the Donbas and the 73rd Navy Seals-style Naval Center which led the liberation of Snake Island.
The use of special forces to hunt down targets responsible for mass killings was notoriously used by Israel against Nazi war criminals and members of the Palestinian terrorist group who murdered 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team. Parallels have already been drawn between Mossad’s operations and the job that could unify Kiev’s SOF and intelligence agencies.
Ukraine’s ability to locate Russian generals in occupied territories has already been demonstrated. On Tuesday, Ukrainian and Russian sources said Lieutenant General Oleg Tsokov, who knew Putin personally, was killed in an attack using a Britain-supplied Storm Shadow missile.
A row of Mysterious explosions and assassinations have also taken place on Russian soil since the start of the large-scale invasion, for which no party has claimed responsibility. On Monday, Russian army officer Stanislav Rzhitsky, who allegedly commanded a submarine responsible for deadly missile attacks on Ukraine, was shot dead while jogging in his hometown of Krasnodar. Drone strikes have also extended the war to Moscow, including the dual attack on the Kremlin citadel in May.
Kiev has not claimed responsibility for any of the incidents, but some led to ironic and cryptic remarks from officials.
Lt. Col. Kindratenko also delivered an uncompromising message to restore Ukraine’s lawful borders to their 1991 state, when the country gained independence from the former Soviet Union.
“Another reason we are fighting is that nobody should be above the law, especially international law,” he said. “Our Commander-in-Chief, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has repeatedly stated that Ukraine’s territorial integrity is not up for discussion.”
“And that includes the Crimean Peninsula and the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts and all the territories illegally seized by Russia.”
“Our goal is the return of our territories from 1991, when Ukraine declared its independence.” “Of course there are different developments and time frames, but we will do everything to make this possible.”
On the battlefield, Ukrainian forces are reportedly advancing hard-fought on at least three fronts in the east of the country.
While the fighting has been intense and costly for both sides, Ukraine continues to develop its training for the elite operators.
Lessons learned on the battlefield have been incorporated into the “Q” or qualification course, three of which have been held since the start of the full-scale invasion. A milestone was reached this week as the first woman, known only as “Number 68”, passed the difficult selection.
Lt Col Kindratenko gave Metro.co.uk a rare glimpse into the work being done to train Ukraine’s next generation of special operators.
“All the instructors who take part in the training have their own combat experience, which they pass on to the candidates,” he said.
“This course is unique among all courses of this type within the Armed Forces of Ukraine.” It includes the experience we have gained from our Western partners, but also our own experience since the beginning of Russian aggression against our country.
“We have enough service members from all services and agencies of the armed forces who are ready to become part of the SOF family.”
“They have achieved a level of mastery in their units and in their positions, but they feel the potential and ability to improve and fulfill roles as part of the Special Operations Forces.”
Q-Course graduates include military personnel who are already battle-hardened and have no illusions about the dangers they face after 17 months of all-out war.
“Given that the candidates are making this decision during an all-out war, they understand all the challenges and risks that SOF operators face when conducting special operations,” Lt. Col. Kindratenko said.
“Most of them see with their own eyes the work of the SOF in combat conditions, its effectiveness and efficiency, understand its importance and want to join it themselves.”
“But putting aside the fact that we are currently at war, the selection and training process is even more difficult than before.”
“Our motto is: “Quality over quantity”, and we stick to that. “Well-trained and equipped operators are our priority.”
Mykola Bielieskov, a research fellow at the National Institute for Strategic Studies advising Mr. Zelenskyj, raised the prospect of a secretive form of justice taking place in parallel with the work of international courts aimed at bringing Putin and others before The Hague.
“I hope that the covert operations will continue after Ukraine has achieved victory as the international justice system is a slow and ineffective tool,” he said. “The issue of bringing justice to account for war criminals is very important, so I hope it will be implemented.”
“Tackling war criminals and using all available measures would be an important option to complement the work of international courts, such as the International Criminal Court.”
On the battlefield, Ukrainian forces have made progress “in some areas,” conducting counteroffensives in at least three sectors of the frontline, the U.S. Institute for War Research said.
According to the British MoD, the main attacks were probably aimed at the area around Orichiv in the Zaporizhia region to the south, and at Wuhledar and Bakhmut further north.
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