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Russia as a Terrorist State

Russia and its military are terrorist organizations. Declining this designation will lead to more atrocities.

October 25, 2022

Russia is a terrorist state which has repeatedly violated international law and has routinely and pervasively engaged in terrorist acts and human rights violations in its war against Ukraine.  The failure of Western governments to formally designate Russia as a terrorist state, and Russia’s armed forces as a terrorist organization, undermines international law and facilitates Russia’s ongoing atrocities and genocide against Ukrainians.

Russia has committed virtually every possible war crime and violation of international law in Ukraine, leaving a trail of death and destruction and long surpassing legal definitions of state terrorism.  Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that “Russia has become the largest terrorist organization in the world, and this must be a legal fact.”[1] There is no serious question but that Russian terrorist acts and war crimes are not the acts of a few rogue soldiers, but are part of the Russian government’s premeditated strategy to break Ukrainian morale and perpetrate cultural genocide.

Russia has launched more than 2,800 cruise missiles against Ukraine, primarily against civilian targets.[2]  The U.S. Department of Defense has acknowledged Russia’s campaign of terror against civilians and humanitarian infrastructure.[3]  Russia has repeatedly prioritized terror attacks against civilians over strategically important military objects.

Ukrainian prosecutor general Andrii Kostin observed:

Ukraine's ports have been captured or cut off and exports of Ukrainian grain blocked by Russia. Half a million tons of Ukrainian grain have been forcibly appropriated by Russia, echoing the "Holodomor" (death by famine) of 1932-33.  The Ukrainian national anthem - "Ukraine Has Not Yet Died" - reflects more than 400 years of aggression and cultural genocide, principally from Russia.

Even before the news of massacres in Bucha, Irpin’, Mariupol, and other Russian atrocities broke, the Los Angeles Times noted on March 1, 2022 that the U.S. would be “on solid ground adding the Russian Federation to the list” of state sponsors of terror.[5]  Since then, the case has become overwhelming.

Nearly two-thirds of Ukraine's 7.5 million children were displaced;[6] many refugees never return.[7]  By mid-2022, estimates of the number of Ukrainians deported to Russia - most of them forcibly - ranged from 900,000[8] to over two million.[9]  In 2022, the Ukrainian economy was forecast to contract by 45-50%[10] compared to only 4-6% for Russia under heavy sanctions.[11]

Summary Executions, Torture, Rape, and Forced Deportations

A report by United Nations investigators found extensive evidence that "Russian troops have raped and tortured children in Ukraine, carried out a 'large number' of executions and committed other war crimes.”[12] The committee was “struck by the large number of executions in the areas that [they] visited” and pervasive evidence of torture.

Russia has engaged in arbitrary disappearances and detention of Ukrainians in “filtration camps” where torture and summary executions occur.[13] So-called Russian "filtration camps" are actually "death camps” on the model of Nazi Germany’s concentration camps used for ethnic and ideological cleansing. Many have been murdered for expressing even slight loyalty to the Ukrainian state or reluctant to collaborate with the fascist Russian invaders.  Interviews with Ukrainians who passed through Russian filtration camps reveal the fate of those who do not pass Russian filtration procedures. One Russian invader reportedly told a Ukrainian woman: “‘I already shot 10, then I got bored and stopped counting.’”[14]

Russian-occupied Mariupol became a modern Auschwitz as Russian mobile crematoria disposed evidence of massive civilian casualties while international observers and aid organizations were kept out.[15]  Survivors of Nazi concentration camps[16] and of the the Nazi occupation of Ukraine[17] were killed in 2022 by Russian bombs and missiles.

Russia has been “carrying out ‘massive forced deportations’ of Ukrainians that amount to ethnic cleansing.”[18] An investigation by the Associated Press found that Russian “officials have deported Ukrainian children to Russia or Russian-held territories without consent, lied to them that they weren’t wanted by their parents, used them for propaganda, and given them Russian families and citizenship.”[19]

The massacres first uncovered after the Russian withdrawal from Kyiv are not exceptions, but routine modus operandi of Russian forces.  "Whole families" with young children are among those found in mass graves in Lyman.[20] Hundreds of civilians were found murdered in Izium.[21] Similar atrocities discovered in other areas liberated by Ukraine from the fascist Russian invaders.

Pramila Patten, United Nations special representative on sexual violence in conflict, cited evidence that Russian invaders have been supplied with Viagra to rape Ukrainian women as part of a “deliberate tactic to dehumanize the victim.”[22]

Russia is now collaborating with Iran, a major state sponsor of terror, to prosecute its genocide against the people of Ukraine. US State Department spokesperson Ned Price acknowledged that "We now have abundant evidence that [Iranian] UAVs are being used [by Russia] to strike Ukrainian civilians and critical civilian infrastructure" in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.[23]

Invoking Religion for Terror

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill’s claim that death in war against Ukraine “washes away all sins[24] invokes the extremism of groups like the Islamic State in providing religious cover for mass murder.  The Russian Orthodox Church is a subsidiary of the Russian state engaged in consolidating social control with no independent moral authority.[25] “Patriarch” Kirill is no holy man, but merely another oligarch in Putin’s stable with personal net worth estimated in the billions; the Church itself earns millions through the sale of alcohol and tobacco.  Like Putin, Kirill is a career KGB agent, having infiltrated churches on behalf of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.[26]

Russian’s War in Ukraine - Made with Western Money and Western Arms

The Biden administration’s policy of "going easy on Russia's energy industry"[27] while restricting domestic US oil production[28] has contributed to rising oil prices. This has contributed to a windfall for Russia funding its war against Ukraine as Russia exports less oil but earns more money.[29]

Inspection of downed Russian drones have repeatedly identified numerous Western components, notwithstanding ostensible sanctions.[30] A captured Russian Orlan-10 drone had a US cell phone tracker, a Japanese engine, a French thermal imaging module produced after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and other parts from Austria, Germany, Taiwan, and the Netherlands.[31]

Notwithstanding the embargo following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and war in the Donbas in 2014, investigations have reported that ten European states subsequently exported at least €346 million of military hardware to Russia.[32]  Reuters has documented “how military technology reaches Russia in breach of U.S. export controls.”[33]  Further investigation has documented that "Russia continues to receive Western military technology despite sanctions."[34]  These transfers have continued to occur both due to numerous loopholes and lax enforcement. Violators have to date faced little if any accountability.

As soon as sanctions against Russia ease, major Western companies, collaborators, and "useful idiots" are eager to resume relationships with Russia and supply the funds and materials that have killed Ukrainians.  Only a terrorist listing of the Russian state and armed forces can provide adequate deterrance and penalties for companies and individuals that otherwise would eagerly do business with the Russian terror regime.

Russia must be designated as a state sponsor of terror, as Ukraine's parliament, president, and the US Senate have requested. The Russian military and its affiliates must also be designated as a terrorist organizations to prevent its resupply and to hold criminally accountable those who support it and are thereby complicit in Russian atrocities.

Failure to Designate Russia as a Terrorist State Will Lead to More Atrocities

Notwithstanding overwhelming evidence of Russian war crimes and a unanimous resolution of the US Senate resolution to recognize Russia as a terrorist state,[35]  the Biden administration has made a "final decision not to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terror."[36]  The stated rationale does not dispute Russia’s terrorist conduct. Rather, it cites alleged “unintended consequences” of a terrorist designation for Russia that could harm U.S. interests. A terrorist designation for Russia would impede the Biden administration’s misguided attempts to push through a nuclear deal for Iran with Russia as the chief negotiator and beneficiary.[37] 

Biden’s claims of “unintended consequences” can be viewed without irony only by the naive. In 2014, to avoid derailing Russia’s support for a bad deal with Iran’s terrorist mullahs, the Obama-Biden administration handled Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in with kid gloves[38] and thereby emboldened further aggression.  Within one month of Biden’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, Russia began its military buildup along the Ukrainian border to prepare for invasion.  Biden’s repeated assurances to Putin in late 2021 and early 2022 that the US would not commit troops in Ukraine under any circumstances[39] did not de-escalate the situation, but gave a green light to invasion.

Biden’s refusal to designate Russia as a terrorist state on the basis of political rather than factual considerations undermines universal human rights, international law, and the Genocide Convention Act. 

When a nation can openly engage in ethnic cleansing, genocide, mass deportations, summary executions, systematic rape, massacres of humanitarian convoys, and routine targeting of civilians and civil infrastructure, and engage in the full spectrum of terrorist acts without being designated as a terrorist state, such acts are not deterred but become normalized. The United Nations, built up explicitly under the promise of “never again” to prevent genocide and transnational conflict, is degraded when genocide perpetrated by a nation wielding veto power on its permanent security counsel while flagrantly violating the United Nations charter and obligations under international law.

Without enforcement or accountability, or with only selective enforcement against small-time actors while major perpetrators act with impunity, the entire system of international law becomes meaningless. Such conduct only guarantees more atrocities and worsening of the human rights situation in Ukraine and elsewhere.


[1] "Russia has become the largest terrorist organization in the world, and this must be a legal fact - address by the President of Ukraine." Office of the President of Ukraine, June 27, 2022.

[2] "Russia has become the largest terrorist organization in the world, and this must be a legal fact - address by the President of Ukraine." Office of the President of Ukraine, June 27, 2022.

[3] Garamone, Jim. "Russia Trying Terror Attacks on Ukrainian Civilians." US Department of Defense News, October 17, 2022.

[4] Romanenko, Valentyna. "Russia carried out 85 strikes on Ukraine’s energy facilities, including 51 in October." Ukrainska Pravda, October 24, 2022.

[5] Blazakis, Jason M. "The ultimate sanction: Listing Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism." Los Angeles Times, March 1, 2022.

[6] Bohacova, Karolina. "Nearly two-thirds of Ukrainian children displaced by war, says UN." Euro News, April 13, 2022.

[7] Joireman, Sandra. "Ukrainian Refugees May Never Return Home, Even After the War Ends." How Stuff Works, April 6, 2022.

[8] Tsui, Karina.  "At least 900,000 Ukrainians ‘forcibly deported’ to Russia, U.S. says." Washington Post, July 13, 2022.

[9] Matthews, Alex Leeds, Matt Stiles, Tom Nagorski, and Justin Rood.  "The Ukraine War in data: Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians, ‘forcibly removed’ from their land to Russia." Grid News, July 21, 2022.

[10] "Russian Invasion to Shrink Ukraine Economy by 45 Percent this Year." World Bank, April 10, 2022.

[11] "Russian economy contracts under pressure from sanctions." Politico, August 12, 2022.

[12] De Luce, Dan. "Russian troops raped and tortured children in Ukraine, U.N. panel says." NBC News, September 23, 2022.

[13] Blinken, Anthony J. "Russia’s 'Filtration' Operations, Forced Disappearances, and Mass Deportations of Ukrainian Citizens." US Department of State, July 13, 2022.

[14] Vorobyov, Niko. "Ukrainians in Russia align with Moscow but lament refugee camps." Al Jazeera, June 17, 2022.

[15] Hutchinson, Bill. "Ukrainian officials accuse Russia of using 'mobile crematoriums' in Mariupol." ABC News, April 7, 2022.

[16] "Ukrainian Holocaust survivor Boris Romantschenko (96) killed in Russian shelling of Kharkiv." International Auschwitz Committee, March 22, 2022.

[17] "Ukrainian Woman Who Survived Nazi Occupation In Mariupol Dies Hiding From Russian Bombs." Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. April 20, 2022.

[18] "Russia ‘forcibly taking children’ from Ukraine in ‘mass deportations.’"  Metro (UK), October 17, 2022.

[19] El Deeb, Sarah, Anastasiia Shvets, and Elizaveta Tilna. "How Moscow takes Ukrainian children and makes them Russians."  PBS, October 13, 2022.

[20] Slisco, Aila. "'Whole Families' Among 180 Bodies Found in Mass Grave in Lyman: Ukraine." Newsweek, October 7, 2022.

[21] "Most people buried in mass grave in Ukraine's Izium are civilians, police chief says." Reuters, September 16, 2022.

[22] Zitser, Joshua. "Russian soldiers are supplied with Viagra to rape Ukrainian women and 'dehumanize' them, claims UN official." Busines Insider, October 16, 2022.

[23] "Russia warns UN against probing Iranian drones in Ukraine." Deutsche Welle, October 20, 2022.

[24] "Russian Orthodox leader: Death in war 'washes away all sins'"  USA Today, September 27, 2022.

[25] "Putin Runs The Russian State--And The Russian Church Too." Forbes, February 20, 2009.

[26] Thompson, Damian. "Kirill, the Patriarch in league with Putin." The Spectator (UK), March 26, 2022.

[27] Lefebvre, Ben and Josh Siegel. "Why Biden is going easy on Russia's energy industry." Politico, February 26, 2022.

[28] Peek, Liz. "Biden’s war on oil is funding Putin’s war on Ukraine." The Hill, June 24, 2022.

[29] "Russia Is Making Heaps of Money From Oil, but There Is a Way to Stop That." New York Times, July 29, 2022.

[30] Whalen, Jeanne. "Russian drones shot down over Ukraine were full of Western parts. Can the US cut them off?"  Washington Post, February 11, 2022.

[31] Shoaib, Alia. "Ukraine strips down captured Russian drone, says it is full of Western parts, CNN reports." Business Insider, July 23, 2022.

[32] Brillaud, Laure, Ana Curic, Maria Maggiore, Leïla Miñano and Nico Schmidt. "EU member states exported weapons to Russia after the 2014 embargo." Investigate Europe, March 17, 2022.

[33] Gauthier-Villars,  David, Steve Stecklow and John Shiffman. "Special Report: How military technology reaches Russia in breach of U.S. export controls." Reuters, April 29, 2022.

[34] Escalonilla, Álvaro. "Russia continues to receive Western military technology despite sanctions." Atalayar, August 9, 2022.

[35] Crowley, Michael, and Edward Wong. "Blinken Resists Push to Label Russia a Terrorist State." New York Times, July 27, 2022.

[36] Powell, Anita. "Biden Says No to Appeals to Designate Russia a State Sponsor of Terror."  Voice of America News, September 6, 2022.

[37] Rafizadeh, Majid. "Biden Administration's Gift to Russia: Iran Nuke Deal." Gatestone Institute, October 1, 2022.

[38] LoGiurato, Brett and Michael B. Kelley. "Why Putin Is Able To Screw With The US At Every Turn." Business Insider, March 21, 2014.

[39] Mason, Jeff and Vladimir Soldatkin. "Biden says U.S. will not put troops in Ukraine, as tensions with Russia ease." Reuters, December 8, 2021.

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