The views expressed in this article are those of the author and in no way represent the editorial position of Euronews.
The weeks leading up to Russia’s attack on Ukraine were filled with speculation about the possibility of an invasion.
While US President Joe Biden said he had reliable information confirming the war’s imminence, the Kremlin denied it, proclaiming the suggestion a form of political blackmail. Analysts around the world propose multiple possible scenarios.
In this frenzy of speculation, a colleague asked me, “Do you think Putin would do that?” I instinctively replied: “Why not?”
I had no information other than what I was reading in the media. I had no access to intelligence reports or expert analysis. Yet I had the innate certainty that it would happen, because I am a Syrian refugee forced to flee to Europe less than two months after the Russian forces entered Syria on September 30, 2015. I have not lost my memory of the harrowing events. I knew that Putin was going to invade Ukraine.
Putin’s forces invaded Georgia in 2008 and to date his forces control South Ossetia and Abkhazia. They invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014. His forces entered my country in 2015 where he became a god of war and since 2016 Putin has sent his favorite mercenaries, Russian paramilitary fighters Wagner, to Libya, Mali, Central Africa and other countries. In 2018, Russia used nerve gas on British soil in violation of its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention. In early 2022, Putin’s forces entered Kazakhstan to quash the popular uprising and return the deposed president to the capital, Astana, after fleeing to Moscow. All along, Russia has been lending support to far-right parties and groups across Europe.
These crimes had passed without accountability on the part of the international community, so why shouldn’t Ukraine be next?
A few days after the war in Ukraine began, we witnessed horrific scenes of systematic bombing of infrastructure, siege of cities and the spread of terror among civilians forced to flee their homes. We have seen scorched earth policy, the targeting of hospitals and schools, civilian body parts scattered on the streets, public buses carrying displaced people from combat zones, and hundreds of thousands of refugees crossing borders into neighboring countries.
I pass from one news station to another and the images keep confusing me. I’ve seen them before.
The devastation of Bucha is the devastation of Aleppo. Listening to Dr. Lisa Lisitsa of the Okhmadyt hospital in Kiev say that the hospital holds patients who cannot be evacuated due to illness or who cannot be transferred to the underground shelter was like hearing reports from Syrian doctor Amani Ballour from the “Cave Hospital” of Ghouta in Damascus years earlier.
The Syrian children of Idlib, recovered from the rubble, and the Ukrainian children of Sumy, despite the distance, share the same smile.
Ukrainians calling for a no-fly zone remind me of Syrians calling for the same. A Russian pilot, captured by the Ukrainian army last month, is thought to have previously bombed Syrian cities. I still remember seeing a photo of Russian pilots standing next to Bashar al-Assad and Putin hanging at the Syrian airport of Hmeimim.
I pray that Putin’s forces do not use chemical weapons in Ukraine as their Syrian government partners in Syria did.
Had al-Assad and Putin been held accountable for their notorious crimes, we may not have seen the Syrian scenario repeat itself in Ukraine today.
The Russian leadership does not blatantly commit heinous crimes in Ukraine before the eyes of the whole world because of Putin’s military superiority or economic power, but rather because of his belief that he can attack the values of international humanitarian law, human rights, democracy , and the international system, while enjoying full impunity.
Putin only has to look to Assad, his trusted partner in Syria. Instead of finding a man brought to justice for his war crimes, he finds a man who walks free and some countries are even calling for the normalization of relations with him out of political pragmatism.
To ensure that the tragedies of Syria and Ukraine do not spread to other countries, the international community must uphold consistent principles and standards around the world, leveraging its political efforts towards a solid reaffirmation of international law and democratic values everywhere. are trampled on, regardless of the perpetrator or victims. It needs to ensure that there are more resources – including enforcement mechanisms – for the International Criminal Court, national war crimes units, and a greater willingness to create new types of institutions to fill current gaps in international justice and end all impunity for war criminals.
I hope we can use the current global momentum and commitment to account for Russia’s abuses in Ukraine to create a turning point for international justice, which also applies to Syria and other countries.
The response of the international community should attach equal importance to all war victims in the world. Eventually, in our interconnected world, we all pay a price for each war that the perpetrators are not required to answer for.
Mazen Darwish is a lawyer and president of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression.