Allegations of genocide in Donbas

During the build-up to its invasion of Ukraine, Russia falsely accused Ukraine of genocide against Russian speakers in the Donbas region. Ukraine fought a war against Russian proxy forces in the Donbas War from 2014 to 2022. Russia's president Vladimir Putin used this claim of genocide to justify the invasion of Ukraine. There is no evidence to support the allegation and it has been widely rejected.[1]

Following the invasion, Ukraine brought a case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to challenge Russia's accusation. During the proceedings of Ukraine v. Russian Federation, the ICJ said it had found no evidence of genocide. The International Association of Genocide Scholars also rejected Russia's accusation.[2] Further reports by 30 legal and genocide scholars warned that Russia's accusations are part of the "accusation in a mirror" technique, ultimately revealing the Russian incitement to commit genocide against Ukrainians.[3]

Donbas War and accusations

There are numerous Russian-speaking populations living in the eastern and southern Ukraine, and the Russian-speaking population accounts for the vast majority in the two regions of Donetsk and Luhansk (the Donbas) in eastern Ukraine. These regions however are still ethnically Ukrainian, with ethnic Russians being a minority. Immediately after the 2014 Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine, armed Russian proxies declared the independence of the two regions, triggering the war in Donbas. At the same time, the pro-European government in Kyiv began to gradually use the Ukrainian language to replace the dominant position of Russian in Ukraine.[citation needed]

Altogether, about 14,300 people were killed in the Donbas War, both soldiers and civilians. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 6,500 were Russian proxy forces, 4,400 were Ukrainian forces, and 3,404 were civilians on both sides of the frontline.[4] The vast majority of civilian deaths were in the first year,[4] and the death rate in the Donbas War was actually falling before the 2022 Russian invasion:[5] in 2019 there were 27 conflict-related civilian deaths, in 2020 there were 26 deaths, and in 2021 there were 25 deaths, over half of them from mines and unexploded ordnance.[4]

Since 2014, the Russian government has accused Ukraine of persecuting Ukrainians in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine with threats of violence or death, and Russian president Putin compared the situation to genocide in 2015, 2019, and 2021.[6][7]

On 23 February 2022, the day before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Ukraine called on the international community at the United Nations General Assembly to stop Russia's plans of aggression. Russia's permanent representative to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya, said: "In view of the blatant genocide and the most important the human rights of the people of the world - the right to life are violated, and our country cannot remain indifferent to the fate of the 4 million people of the Donbass."[8]

At a meeting with the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation on 3 November 2023 Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that after the 2014 Revolution of Dignity, Ukraine "began to exterminate Russians in Donbas."[9]


The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which has been monitoring the conflict in Ukraine from 2014 to 31 March 2022, has stated it had never found any evidence to support Russia's allegations.[10][11]

On 7 March 2022, Ukraine filed a complaint with the International Court of Justice (ICJ), stating that Russia's allegations of genocide were untrue and in no case could provide a legal basis for the invasion.[12] On 16 March the International Court of Justice stated it had seen no evidence of genocide, and ruled that Russia must "immediately cease its military operations in Ukraine". it added: "Ukraine has a reasonable right not to accept military action by the Russian Federation to prevent and punish the so-called genocide in Ukraine."[13]

The International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) issued a statement in February 2022, on behalf of more than 300 genocide experts, condemning Russia's "misuse of the term genocide" to "justify its own violence".[2] Melanie O'Brien, president of the IAGS, said "there is absolutely no evidence that a genocide is taking place in Ukraine".[12]

In February 2022 German Chancellor Olaf Scholz dismissed Putin's claims as "ridiculous", saying there was no evidence of genocide in eastern Ukraine.[14]

See also


  1. ^ Hinton, Alexander (25 February 2022). "Putin's claims that Ukraine is committing genocide are baseless, but not unprecedented". The Conversation. Archived from the original on 26 February 2022.
  2. ^ a b Kursani, Shpend (2022). "Beyond Putin's Analogies: The Genocide Debate on Ukraine and the Balkan Analogy Worth Noting". Journal of Genocide Research. 1: 1–13. doi:10.1080/14623528.2022.2099633. S2CID 250513465.
  3. ^ "Independent Legal Analysis of the Russian Federation's Breaches of the Genocide Convention in Ukraine and the Duty to Prevent" (PDF). New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy; Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights. 27 May 2022. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2022-06-16. Retrieved 2022-07-22.
  4. ^ a b c "Conflict-related civilian casualties in Ukraine" (PDF). OHCHR. 27 January 2022. p. 3. Retrieved 27 January 2022.
  5. ^ "From 'frozen' conflict to full-scale invasion". Meduza. 6 March 2022. Archived from the original on 22 September 2022. Retrieved 30 September 2022.
  6. ^ "談烏東衝突 普欽:俄語區處境讓人聯想種族滅絕". TVBS. 2021-12-10. Archived from the original on 2022-03-31. Retrieved 2022-03-29.
  7. ^ "Putin says conflict in eastern Ukraine 'looks like genocide'". RFI. 2021-12-09. Archived from the original on 2022-09-20. Retrieved 2022-09-16.
  8. ^ Nichols, Michelle (2022-02-23). "Ukraine appeals for U.N. help, Russia says can't ignore 'genocide'". Reuters. Archived from the original on 2022-09-20. Retrieved 2022-09-16.
  9. ^ "Putin reiterates that Ukraine never existed and he was forced to start war". Ukrainska Pravda. 3 November 2023. Retrieved 3 November 2023.
  10. ^ "Fact check: Russia falsely blames Ukraine for starting war", VOG, 2022-03-03, archived from the original on 2022-03-03, retrieved 2022-03-30
  11. ^ "OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine", OSCE, archived from the original on 2022-03-29, retrieved 2022-03-30
  12. ^ a b "烏俄種族滅絕訴訟案 國際法院將開庭聽審". 聯合新聞網. 2022-03-07. Archived from the original on 2022-04-09. Retrieved 2022-03-29.
  13. ^ "Allegations of Genocide under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Ukraine v. Russian Federation): The Court indicates provisional measures" (PDF). International Court. 2022-03-16. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2022-03-25. Retrieved 2022-03-16.
  14. ^ "Ukraine crisis: Vladimir Putin address fact-checked". BBC News. 2022-02-22. Archived from the original on 2022-02-23. Retrieved 2022-09-16.