russia(*) has committed numerous war crimes in Ukraine over the last few months. Some of these acts are so horrible that they can be classified only as terrorism. More and more voices from the media and Western establishment call on recognizing russia as a terrorist state.
There is no universal definition of terrorism. It is a charged term often used to appeal to emotions. Anthony Aust, in the Handbook of International Law, defines state terrorism as follows:
"This is a term for terrorist acts by one State against another State or the latter's nationals, such as the holding hostage of US diplomats in Iran in 1979-81, and done either by the State or commissioned or adopted by it".
Kofi Annan, at the time the United Nations Secretary-General, said "... regardless of the differences between governments on the question of the definition of terrorism, what is clear and what we can all agree on is any deliberate attack on innocent civilians [or non-combatants], regardless of one's cause, is unacceptable and fits into the definition of terrorism."
In November 2004, a Secretary-General of the United Nations described terrorism as any act "intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act".
On May 9, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed Law № 2265-IX. The law defines russian federation as a terrorist state and lists the state genocide of Ukrainians among russia's goals.
On May 10, 2022, Lithuania's parliament designated the russian federation a terrorist state and its actions in Ukraine a genocide.
US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee has advanced a measure that would direct the Secretary of State Blinken to designate russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.
Let's look at facts to prove russia is a terrorist state.
russian state terrorism has a long history, stretching back to at least the Soviet time when Leon Trotsky was killed in 1940 in Mexico City by a Soviet agent. This trend appears to have continued in the post-Soviet era in today's russia with the deaths of opponents and critics of the russian state and its president, Vladimir Putin.
State terrorism does not necessarily involve only individual targets. Since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Kremlin has provided financial, material, and military support to separatists in eastern Ukraine. russian proxies have shot down the civil MH17 with 298 people on board over Donbas using the Buk missile system. After years of investigations, there is no doubt that this Buk was from the russian military base.
Aside from regular war crimes in Ukraine, the russian army attacked a crowded shopping center in Kremenchuk on June 27, killing over 20 people. President Zelenskyy called it one of the most defiant terrorist attacks in European history.
It was not the first time the russian forces attacked civilians. Rail stations, tower blocks, schools, and hospitals are legit targets. Unfortunately, these terrorist acts continue, on July 14, russia's army 3 SS-N-27 «Sizzler» missiles slammed into the civilian buildings and a cultural center in the city of Vinnytsia, in central Ukraine, killing at least 20 people.
As with non-state terrorism, state terrorism has a purpose. These acts have an aspiration to intimidate. If we take Aust's definition of terrorism as fundamental, it becomes evident that russia is a terrorist state. All states that respect the rules-based international order must follow Lithuania and accept the reality that russia, ISIS, and Al-Qaeda are all the same.
(*) Considering numerous terrorist acts and war crimes of russians in Ukraine, Ukrainian spelling allows to write “russia” in lowercase letters.
Author: Marko Holovach, associate, Vasil Kisil & Partners