Investigating Russian war crimes in Ukraine gives you nightmares says lawyer

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    A top British barrister who has been investigating war crimes committed by Russia during its invasion of Ukraine has revealed just how harrowing it has been to spend months analysing the horrific scenes.

    Catriona Murdoch, a barrister and partner at human rights law firm Global Rights Compliance (GRC), has been leading investigations into whether the Russian military has been deliberately targeting Ukraine’s food infrastructure in an attempt to starve its civilians.

    Having worked on the starvations investigations for the last six months, she and her team, the Starvation Mobile Justice Team, have found a dark pattern emerging in war-torn Ukraine.

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    GRC has so far found “numerous credible and actionable incidents” that show a bleak pattern of coordinated attacks by the Russian military against Ukraine which have left ordinary Ukrainians to starve.

    Their ongoing investigation has found that Russia has been obstructing humanitarian aid in areas of Ukraine it controls and has been pillaging the country’s agricultural industry, which accounts for 10% of the world wheat market, 15% of the corn market, and 13% of the barley market.

    On top of this, critical civilian infrastructure has also been routinely targeted, including electricity infrastructure, shelters, energy and water supplies.

    This has left civilians still in the war-torn country despondent, and has made investigating these crimes tough for Catriona and her crack team of sleuths.

    She said her on-the-ground colleagues who work in Ukraine have had to undertake incredibly challenging work, all while bombs and bullets fly overhead.

    “The risk and impact to their lives on a daily basis has been a huge thing,” she told the Daily Star.

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    “These are colleagues and friends that we've worked with over the last seven or eight years. Seeing their resilience and determination to investigate these incidents and reveal what's happening to people has been very sobering.

    “Having meetings where they're all calling in from basements blankets around themselves while listening to air raids go off, it’s not really what you expect from a group of human rights lawyers.

    “It definitely gives you nightmares.

    “It's been a surreal process, and one that has revealed to me the courage and grit that the team has out there.”

    She said her and her team, made up of weapons experts, open source investigators and other lawyers like herself, found after looking at reams of documents that showed how truly deep the horrors of Russia’s invasion were, they had to try and switch off any emotion and look at every atrocity as analytically as they could.

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    But while the barrister works primarily from the UK, she regularly visits the sites of atrocities, such as the breadline attack in Chernihiv, which saw Russia kill 14 civilians using shells while they were waiting in line for food rations.

    Catriona admitted this was particularly difficult for her.

    She said: “I'm definitely not as resilient as my Ukrainian colleagues. I tend to feel these things a lot more, and to be honest, it really impacted me.”

    She added she and her team will now be conducting more on-the-ground investigations, speaking to people who witnessed or were affected by Russia’s alleged war crimes.

    The barrister added that while she hopes she and her team’s work will aid future prosecutions of war crimes committed by Russia, she knows any legal action will take place “five to 10 years” down the line.

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