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Ukrainian religious scholars provide advice to British experts collecting evidence of Russian crimes for trial in The Hague

An art installation representing Russian crimes in Ukraine is seen near the Soviet Military Cemetery in Warsaw, Poland, May 9, 2023. (OSV News photo/Slawomir Kaminski, Agencja via Reuters)

By Lilia Kovalyk-Vasiuta

LVIV, Ukraine (OSV News) — Leading forensic experts at the British University of Exeter are collecting evidence and testimonies of Russian war crimes in Ukraine. In the course of their work, they met with Ukrainian religious scholars on May 25 to better prepare for future investigations in the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands.

It’s the ICC, commonly known as “The Hague,” that investigates and, where warranted, tries individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community such as genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression.

The forensic experts, who work with the U.K. ministries of Defense and Home Office and asked not to be named, are currently training Ukrainian police investigators and forensic scientists in the methods of forensic examination of war crimes and identification of war victims.

During the meeting, they introduced Ukrainian religious scholars to the selection of evidence in the field. Particular attention was paid to researching the torture and murder of Ukrainian servicemen by Russian troops, followed by what appeared to be relatively formal Orthodox burials. They also paid attention to the damage to religious and cultural sites during the war and the complex relationship between the Russian and other Orthodox churches in Ukraine.

On the Ukrainian side, the discussion was attended by Serhii Shumylo, a Ukrainian professor who is now a visiting researcher fellow at the University of Exeter, and Daria Morozova, who also is a Ukrainian scholar and visiting researcher at the University of Exeter. The meeting also was attended by Brandon Gallaher and Emma Loosley, who are professors from the University of Exeter’s department of theology and religion,, and Nata Bukia-Peters, who has worked as a translator for the ICC on war crimes cases.

Shumylo, who was part of the experts team, is a researcher at the Institute of History of Ukraine of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. He also is the co-chairman of the scientific committee on church history at the International Orthodox Theological Association (IOTA). He provided British forensic scientists with photographs and videos of the crimes committed by the Russians in his native Chernihiv.

“British experts are quite serious, responsible and comprehensive in their approach to collecting, studying and documenting evidence and proof of the crimes of the Russian occupation forces in Ukraine for the International Criminal Court in Hague,” Shumylo said after the meeting.

“They are interested in various aspects, including religious ones,” Shumylo wrote on his Facebook page after the meeting. “And they intend to bring the matter to an end so that the crimes of the Russian occupation forces in Ukraine are condemned in the International Criminal Court in The Hague. I am convinced that this will happen soon. Russian criminals will certainly be brought to justice in The Hague.”

As part of the discussion, Ukrainian religious experts answered questions about the specifics of the religious situation in different regions of Ukraine, in particular in the context of Russia’s war against Ukraine, the peculiarities of funeral rituals, the attitude of Ukrainian religious communities to Russia’s war against Ukraine and the facts of collaboration among the Orthodox clergy.

Lilia Kovalyk-Vasiuta wrires for OSV News from Lviv, Ukraine.

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