Interview with genocide expert: "Russia also commits genocide against children"

The historian and genocide researcher Eugene Finkel, who was born in Lviv, Ukraine, accuses Russia of planning a genocide against Ukraine.

Interview with genocide expert: "Russia also commits genocide against children"

The historian and genocide researcher Eugene Finkel, who was born in Lviv, Ukraine, accuses Russia of planning a genocide against Ukraine. In an interview with, he explains what evidence there is that Russia itself is committing genocide against Ukrainian children. It will take decades to come to terms with these crimes. A reconciliation between Ukraine and Russia is only conceivable without Putin, who, according to Finkel, lost the war long ago. Finkel teaches at Johns Hopkins University in the USA. The year is coming to an end, unfortunately the war in Ukraine is not. If you had to sum up in a few sentences what Russia did to Ukraine, what would you say?

Eugene Finkel: My verdict would be that Russia failed to do what it wanted to do to Ukraine. At the same time, it is also important to talk about what Russia has done to itself. It has caused incredible destruction, human suffering, occupation and genocide.

What was Russia's plan and to what extent did Russia fail?

The plan was either to occupy a significant part of Ukraine and possibly partition the country, or just to bring about a change in the Ukrainian government and the installation of a pro-Russian government. Both plans failed. It is quite obvious that Russia's strategy was not to have to fight until December without having achieved any significant results.

When we talked in April, the terrible pictures from Bucha were still very fresh. Are there any new indications that Putin is waging a genocidal war against Ukraine and its people?

We now have a better overall understanding. In April, that was mostly speculation with no hard evidence. Of course, we already observed the political rhetoric and attitude at the top of the Russian government and in the Russian state media. Above all, the propaganda that Ukraine does not exist or that Ukraine should be "Russified" and at the same time anyone who does not want to be Russian must be destroyed. It was then that this discourse began to intensify: from liberating Ukrainians to killing Ukrainians. Since then, more and more evidence has come to light, not from the media but from high-ranking state officials. So one can say: There is now significantly more evidence that there is a real intent to destroy the Ukrainian nation.

Who exactly is this evidence coming from?

With regard to the murders, for example, we have received more and more evidence from deserted Russian soldiers. Further evidence came through research by Russian journalists who took a closer look at some of the soldiers who were in or near Kyiv. For example, a soldier who was in Bucha and admitted that he killed civilians, but also spoke about the motivation for it. Some of these were random killings, but there were also lists of people who should be killed. Furthermore, speaking Ukrainian or displaying any form of Ukrainian identity posed a great danger to people. There were and are concrete goals based on "being Ukrainian". And we are also getting more and more information from the liberated areas in the south about who was targeted there. So we see patterns - Bucha was no exception.

I also want to raise another important point: the kidnapping of Ukrainian children in very large numbers and the deportation of these children to Russia. We didn't know that in April either. According to the UN definition, this is also an act of genocide.

There is a Russian genocide of Ukrainian children?

If you look at the UN Genocide Convention, there are various acts that qualify as genocide. One of them is removing children from a certain population group and adding them to another group. The goal: to destroy the original group. This is exactly what we saw in southern Ukraine. Ukrainian children are kidnapped and taken to Russia to be re-educated and made into Russians. This coincides with my observations of the Russian media landscape or the statements of Russian officials. That was the plan.

How important is it to record these cases of genocide and how long will it take?

It is extremely important to record these cases. Not only for historical but also for legal reasons. If we're going to achieve some form of accountability, then we have to do it. How long it will take? I am not sure. years, probably decades.

Are there also cases of Ukrainian soldiers committing war crimes?

Ukraine is pretty tight-lipped when it comes to its military. But of course there is evidence. There have been cases of Ukrainian soldiers committing war crimes. In these cases, the Ukrainian journalists deserve credit for exposing them, and of course Ukrainian civil society, who does not hesitate to speak out and report on these cases.

Why do people in Ukraine have such an incredible will to fight and survive?

For one thing, Ukraine has a lot of experience with wars - especially since 2014. For Ukrainians it is a war of survival. They know that if they lose this war, their identities would disappear and they would be forced to become Russians and live like Russians. So for them it is an existential struggle.

Also, Ukraine is much more united in its national identity today. In Ukraine there is finally a society where it is no longer so important what language you speak or what religion or ethnicity you belong to. The only criterion is that you are Ukrainian and you feel Ukrainian. That didn't exist in Ukraine before. Ukraine is no longer a divided society and that gives it enormous power.

The third reason: Ukraine has a very capable state with functioning institutions. And fourth: Ukraine is successful. Yes, she is obviously taking huge losses and experiencing great suffering. But in the end, Russia lost this war in the first ten days, possibly even in the first week, when it failed to capture Kyiv.

To what extent is it even possible to bring about an end to the war through diplomacy and negotiations?

Of course there will be negotiations. There must be negotiations. But they should come at the right time. If you analyze wars between modern states, you will see that a deal is only possible when one of the two sides is defeated or simply too exhausted to continue fighting. In such cases, negotiations have a chance. However, I don't see any evidence of this at the moment. The Russians have not given up on their goals and they remain willing to fight. Ukraine has definitely not given up on its goals. And according to recent polls, not only do Ukrainians want to go back to the territorial borders of February 24, 2022, they also want a liberated Donbass and a liberated Crimea. There will be negotiations, but not now.

What impact will this war have on future generations of Ukrainians and Russians, even if there is peace eventually?

That will depend a lot on how this war ends. If the conflict were somehow frozen, war could break out again at any time. Ukrainian society will become militarized and will strive to liberate the territories occupied by Russia. On the one hand, the people will be severely traumatized because of the genocide committed against them and, on the other hand, because they will not be able to draw a line and therefore experience no justice.

And the other scenario?

Of course, if Ukraine were to win, Ukrainian society would also be severely traumatized, but at least they could put this bad experience behind them and they might even grow and cement new heroes or a new identity for themselves. My hope is that the darker sides of Ukraine's history will also be eclipsed, such as the worship of nationalists like Stepan Bandera, which exist in the far-right sectors of Ukrainian society. This war could make it possible to build something much more inclusive.

Ultimately, these two scenarios have different implications for a possible reconciliation between Russia and Ukraine. If the conflict freezes, reconciliation with Russia will be impossible. If Ukraine wins, such a reconciliation will take a long time. But to be clear: I deliberately don't talk about the possibility of a Russian victory. I think that's pretty much out of the question right now.

In your opinion, a victory for Russia over Ukraine is out of the question?

Yes. I don't see how the Russians can bring about a military victory. Maybe they could freeze the conflict and then try again in a few years. But currently? No definitely not.

Is reconciliation between the two countries even possible as long as Putin is President of Russia?

No, absolutely not. There may be negotiations and a peace deal with Putin or the Russian state. But no, reconciliation is not possible as long as Putin is in power.

Do you think Germany is now doing enough to support Ukraine?

The Germans are doing a lot, but not as much as Ukraine and its allies would like. The German communication strategy - viewed from the outside - is a disaster. To quote Churchill, he once said of Americans that ultimately, after exhausting all other options, they will do the right thing. And that is exactly what Germany is doing with regard to Ukraine: They are doing the right thing, but only after all other options have been examined. This means that Germany will do the right thing in the end, but they will also waste time and then not get any recognition for it.

Philipp Sandmann spoke to Eugene Finkel

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