Russia’s War against Ukraine: A Contravention of International Humanitarian Law

Publication Information

Journal Title: International Journal Of Legal Developments And Allied Issues
Author(s): Dr Muhammad Ibrahim Bukar
Published On: 03/01/2023
Volume: 8
Issue: 6
First Page: 19
Last Page: 31
ISSN: 2454-1273
Publisher: The Law Brigade Publisher

DOI Not Allotted [Get DOI]

Cite this Article

Dr Muhammad Ibrahim Bukar, Russia’s War against Ukraine: A Contravention of International Humanitarian Law, Volume 8 Issue 6, International Journal Of Legal Developments And Allied Issues, 19-31, Published on 03/01/2023, Available at


In February 2022, Russian forces invaded Ukraine and began targeting military objectives in some major Ukrainian cities. In the following months, airstrikes continued and extended to other areas of Ukraine, including the capital Kyiv. Attacks started being conducted against civilians too. For instance, it has been reported that an apartment complex outside of Kharkiv – one of the main cities of Ukraine – was directly targeted. In addition, the United Nations noted that about 13 million people are unable to flee the areas affected by hostilities. International humanitarian law, or the laws of war, provides protections to civilians and other noncombatants from the dangers of armed conflict. It addresses the conduct of hostilities—the means and methods of warfare—by all parties to a conflict. Foremost is the rule that parties to a conflict must distinguish at all times between combatants and civilians. Civilians may never be the deliberate target of attacks. As analyzed in this article, parties to the conflict are required to take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians and civilian objects and not to conduct attacks that fail to discriminate between combatants and civilians, or would cause disproportionate harm to the civilian population. The laws of war limit attacks to “military objectives.” Military objectives are personnel and objects that are making an effective contribution to military action and whose destruction, capture, or neutralization offers a definite military advantage. This would include enemy fighters, weapons and ammunition, and objects being used for military purposes, such as buildings and vehicles. While humanitarian law recognizes that some civilian casualties are inevitable during armed conflict, it imposes a duty on parties to the conflict at all times to distinguish between combatants and civilians, and to target only combatants and other military objectives.  Civilians lose their immunity from attack during the time they are “directly participating in the hostilities” – such as by assisting combatants during a battle. This article aimed at contributing to the understanding of the contravention of the international legal framework that regulates the use of force in Ukraine and how a powerful member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) deliberately circumvented treaty provisions on the use of force. The article concludes with a sidebar of the need to exploit avenues for accountability that will help to forestall future occurrences.

Keywords: International Humanitarian Law, Armed Conflict, Russia, Ukraine, United Nations

Share this research

Latest Publications

Scroll to Top