Russian forces in Ukraine have shown "an utter disregard for international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians", Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said.
Speaking at the United Nations in New York, he said what he had seen on a visit to Ukraine last week was "profoundly shocking" and would in the future be determined as "war crimes" by a court of law.
He said he had stood at the edge of a mass grave in Bucha which contained the remains of hundreds of people. He said there were only four soldiers. He said the rest were men, women and children. He said many had been tortured and brutalised and some had been raped.
“Those images speak for themselves,” and there was “no spinning that reality away”, he said. “There was nothing fabricated about what I witnessed.”
Mr Coveney said Ireland was to provide an additional €3 million in funding to the International Criminal Court to assist in its investigation into atrocities carried out in Ukraine.
“In all situations where war crimes may have been committed, we must ensure that timely, credible investigations are undertaken; that evidence is rigorously documented; and that witnesses, victims and survivors are supported.
“Without accountability and truth, there is no hope of a sustainable peace; not in Ukraine, not anywhere,” the Minister said.
Asked by The Irish Times whether any war crimes trials should involve Russian military personnel who carried out atrocities or politicians who ordered them to invade Ukraine, Mr Coveney said: “That is a matter for the International Criminal Court and its prosecutor. As they put the evidence base together to hear trials then I think it will become self-evident who is responsible for making decisions and who is responsible for actually committing those crimes should they be determined as so.
“That is not going to be easy. But the important thing is to have teams from the International Criminal Court on the ground in Bucha and in other towns and villages across Ukraine to make sure this evidence base is not lost or covered up. It is important that even in the context of continuing conflict that we are gathering the evidence to ensure those who are responsible are held to account.”
Mr Coveney said the war in Ukraine was madness and had to stop. He said it was “a war of choice”. “It can end immediately if President [Vladimir] Putin so decides.
"I want to call on Russia directly; agree to an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, commit to negotiations, respect this [UN] charter," he said.
Mr Coveney said Ireland was a small country that was not a member of any military alliance.
“We’re no superpower. But we fought to take a seat at this table [on the UN Security Council] and we earned the right to be here.
“Ireland cannot, and will not, remain silent while this senseless and devastating war continues,” he said. “Neither should any member of this council.”