Congress Seeks To Further Russian Sanctions For Alleged Human Rights Violations In Ukraine

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A new bill sanctioning Russia for its alleged human rights atrocities during the war in Ukraine was introduced in both chambers of Congress Friday.

The Ukraine Human Rights Act of 2022 seeks to codify many of the sanctions imposed by the Biden administration on Russia, which launched a “special military operation” against Ukraine in February, according to The Hill. Russia has been under a U.S. sanctions regime since 2014 when it annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, which was dramatically broadened after Ukraine was invaded.

“I could not think of a more fitting bill to introduce with my House and Senate colleagues following the UN Security Council Meeting and the horrific mass graves uncovered in Izyum. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reflects Vladimir Putin’s complete disregard for human life,” said Republican Rep. Pat Fallon of Texas, the lead sponsor of the bill in the House, in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation via his co-sponsor, Democratic Rep. Jimmy Panetta of California. A companion bill in the Senate has been introduced by Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada and Republican Sen. Todd Young of Indiana.

Panetta’s statement added that “our Ukraine Human Rights Policy Act is a device to hold Russia accountable for its heinous acts and a deterrent against further crimes against humanity.”

Even as Russia has been heavily sanctioned by the United States and its allies, making it the most sanctioned country in the world, it has continued its campaign in Ukraine, with objectives changing over time. In a speech on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “partial mobilization” of “300,000 reservists,” many to be conscripted, to secure its occupied territories in Eastern Ukraine while threatening the West with the use of nuclear weapons if they interdicted Russian forces.

The bill will make amendments to the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), an omnibus sanctions package directed at Iran, North Korea, and Russia, which was signed into law by then-President Donald Trump in 2017. Fallon’s office said they will modify sanctions to better target perpetrators of human rights violations unique to Ukraine.

One amendment is the forced relocation of Ukrainians in Russian-occupied regions, particularly the area surrounding Mariupol, to the Russian mainland, according to The Hill. Though the Kremlin has denied this, Western governments and human rights observers have accused Russia of taking Ukrainians deep into Russian territory, sometimes as far as 2,400 miles east to Novosibirsk, per aid workers interviewed by Haaretz.

It has been recognized as a war crime and crime against humanity since 1945 when it was codified to charge Nazi leaders at the Nuremberg Tribunal. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention and customary international law, the forced displacement of persons from occupied territories is prohibited.

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The bill also directs the State Department to produce a classified report to Congress detailing all of Russia’s alleged war crimes in Ukraine, with a focus on human rights violations.

The legislation is being introduced as news of Russia’s human rights violations continues to be reported by journalists on the ground in Ukraine. Most recently, 440 bodies– including civilians and children – were found in a mass grave in the city of Izium, on the border of the occupied territory of Donetsk, with many showing signs of torture.

In March, 458 bodies were found in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, while officials in Mariupol claim that “over 9,000 bodies” were found in April in a nearby village. In all cases, Russian forces have been accused of perpetrating the deaths.

“The horrific atrocities committed by Russia in Ukraine – including the recent discovery of mass graves filled with innocent Ukrainian men, women, and children – cannot go unanswered,” Sen. Rosen told the DCNF.

The Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C. has not responded to press inquiries from the DCNF.

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