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September 30, 2022 1:31 pm
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Former Jewish Agency Head Sharansky Urges Creation of International Tribunal to Try Russian ‘Genocide’ in Ukraine

avatar by Ben Cohen

Service members of pro-Russian troops, including fighters of the Chechen special forces unit, stand in front of the destroyed administration building of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 21, 2022. Photo: Reauters/Chingis Kondarov

The former head of the Jewish Agency accused the Russian regime of prosecuting a “genocide” in Ukraine as he urged the creation of an international tribunal to try crimes against humanity committed by Russian forces.

Natan Sharansky — who served at the Agency’s helm from 2009-18 and was one of the leading Jewish “refuseniks” of the Soviet era — made the announcement at an event on Thursday organized by the Ukrainian Embassy in Israel to mark the 81st anniversary of the Babyn Yar massacre of Sept.29-30 1941, when more than 33,000 Jews were executed by Nazi officers at a ravine just outside Kyiv.

Sharansky emphasized that he was confident Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of his southern neighbor would be “defeated.” Nonetheless, it was “very important that there be an international court regarding crimes against humanity by the leadership of Russia,” Sharansky said.

“This is genocide, because they decided which nation should and which should not exist,” Sharansky declared.

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Thursday’s meeting, which brought together representatives of the Ukrainian government with Jewish human rights advocates, also heard from the former Canadian Minister of Justice, Irwin Cotler, who now heads the Montreal-based Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights.

“The creation of a special tribunal for Russian crimes against Ukraine is a necessary and urgent step that must be taken to hold the Russian leadership accountable for this aggression in the same way they will be accountable for crimes against humanity and incitement to genocide,” Cotler said. “I hope the international community will start moving in this direction.”

The main address was delivered by Andriy Yermak, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Chief of Staff.

“After dozens of years, hordes of murderers infected with the ideology of hatred returned to Ukraine,” Yermak told the gathering. “This time they came from the east, not from the west, they speak a different language, they have a different leader, but they have the same goal – to subjugate and destroy entire nations.”

Yermak said that the commemoration of the massacre at Babyn Yar was even more poignant given Russian atrocities in “Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol, Izium and dozens of other cities.”

He added that the “pain from this ancient scar has been intensified by new wounds. We will never forget Babyn Yar.”

During the opening days of the Russian invasion, the Babyn Yar site was damaged by a missile strike targeting Kyiv’s main television tower, sparking fierce condemnation from Ukrainian and Israeli leaders.

However, Zelensky has been consistently critical of Israel’s reluctance to match its extensive humanitarian relief operations in Ukraine with aid to the Ukrainian armed forces. Last week, Zelensky, who is Jewish, described himself as being “in shock” at Israel’s reluctance to supply his country with anti-missile systems.

“I don’t know what happened to Israel. I’m honestly, frankly – I am in shock, because I don’t understand why they couldn’t give us air defenses,” Zelensky said.

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