When Australia proposed deeming Russia a “pariah nation” after Russia’s military attack of Ukraine, it seemed excessively harsh. But it was not only because they started a war. It is also for conducting genocide of a neighbor nation.

In April 2022, Russians withdrew from Bucha, a small city near Kyiv. According to news reports, the retreating Russians left the mangled remains of 458 civilians, victims of brutal torture and murder. Among the casualties were 86 women, and nine children under the age of 18.

Since then, Ukrainians have been meticulously gathering and documenting evidence of the Russian army’s atrocities throughout Ukraine. The evidence includes boxes of extracted teeth from torture victims.

I empathize with Ukrainians, especially the children. In my childhood, I too was traumatized by Russian atrocities.

In 1941, near the city of Sauliai in Lithuania, more than 50 Lithuanian political detainees were tortured and slaughtered by Russians, just prior to their retreat from the German Army. I was 8 years old and could not comprehend either the intent or the purpose of the atrocity. It made no sense to me. Although we lived 190 kilometers from Sauliai, the horror traumatized me and inflicted permanent scars on my psyche.

After I heard the stories, my father’s strong embrace quelled my fear, but my contempt for the Russians became permanent.

I shudder and as I pause, I realize that the incidents of torture and murder of civilians by Russians in Ukraine are not anomalies of misconduct. The staggering body counts, the perpetration of tortures in all Russian-occupied regions in Ukraine, along with methodology, and a consistent modus operandi, reveal a systematized approach. In conjunction with targeting civilians by rocket and artillery fire, Putin has deployed specifically trained and equipped legions to inflict indescribable brutality.

The gruesome tasks are carried out by teams of operatives in predictable, systematic ways.

The war in Ukraine has lasted for more than nine months. There have been numerous locations with hundreds of mangled bodies of civilians discovered. However, the purpose of torturing and murdering civilians as a war tactic remains a secret.

The brand of “pariah nation” imposes a shunning, an isolation, a quarantine. But it has not deterred Putin’s aggression, and his avarice for dominance.

Ukraine’s survival as a free nation must be the ultimate outcome.

Fred Natkevi
Oak Park

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