The deadly Russian missile strike adds urgency to an international conference on war crimes in Ukraine.


A Russian missile strike on a city in central Ukraine on Thursday that killed at least 23 people, including three children, added urgency to an international conference at The Hague aimed at coordinating the prosecution of possible war crimes committed during the conflict.

“In the morning Russian missiles hit our city of Vinnytsia, an ordinary peaceful city,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said, addressing the conference by video link on Thursday. He said the strike destroyed homes and a medical facility, calling the attack an “act of Russian terror.”

There was no immediate comment from Moscow on the attack. President Vladimir V. Putin’s government has denied that it targets civilians.

At the conference in The Hague, home to the headquarters of the International Criminal Court, 45 nations, including the United States and members of the European Union, heard testimony about atrocities and agreed to coordinate their investigations. They also pledged around $20 million to assist the court as well as the prosecutor general’s office in Ukraine.

Barbarity is part of every conflict, but the process of documenting the episodes that emerged since Russia invaded Ukraine in February are unusual, in part because of the number of investigators working to do so and in part because investigations, and even prosecutions, have begun while the war is still unfolding.

On top of Ukraine’s own justice system, an alphabet soup of organizations is investigating possible war crimes, including the International Criminal Court and the United Nations. One aim of the conference is to avoid having those entities trip over one another in their search for evidence and witnesses.

The Dutch foreign minister, Wopke Hoekstra, told reporters that the conference represented “a huge step in coordination.” Because neither Ukraine nor Russia is part of the International Criminal Court, the Netherlands would also consider setting up an ad hoc war crimes tribunal, he said.

Four trials have already taken place in Ukraine, according to the country’s prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, and thousands more investigations had been opened. “Impunity is not an option,” she said.

The broad roster of national and international organizations taking an interest in Russian conduct in Ukraine has prompted some observers to note that less attention is being paid to conflicts in other countries, particularly in the Middle East and Africa.

Mr. Hoekstra, the Dutch foreign minister, acknowledged the issue, saying that the joint effort in Ukraine should not be a one-off.

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