Ukraine is currently reasserting control over large parts of its territory invaded by Russia since February 2022.

It is no secret that some Ukrainians collaborated with the Russians, or at least accepted jobs to feed themselves and their families. It is equally no secret that Russian forces have behaved atrociously in a number of areas. Bucha comes to mind, but even now mass graves are being investigated in Izyum.

From past experiences, such as post-liberation France in 1944, there is a risk of summary justice being handed out by people exasperated by months of ordeal, without due process.

Has Zelenskyy made any official pronouncements indicating that extra-judicial abuses will not be tolerated? For example, 2-3 months back the BBC publicized a few instances of alleged abuses of Russian POWs. Zelenskky's response was that such cases were against policy, would be looked into, and would be punished if confirmed.

What are the official communications of the Ukrainian government regarding the newly liberated territories and suspected collaborators?

  • And regardless of what he says, there were some 1,300 open cases for treason/collboration in June latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-07-28/… Maybe Ukrainian media has more up-to-date numbers. One case of possibly summary justice was mentioned in that piece. Anyhow, unlike with French collaborators in WW2, Russia will probably happily accept collaborators who flee to Russia, even low level ones.
    – Fizz
    Sep 17, 2022 at 13:08
  • @Fizz there are about 2 million Ukrainian refugees in Russia, so "collaborators" would be likely a minor part, requiring no special action from Russian government.
    – Roger V.
    Sep 20, 2022 at 8:10
  • Since France is mentioned, another example is the exodus of pied-noirs and harkis from Algeria toward the end of the war of independence - we are talking about more than a million escapees here and hundreds of thousands of summary executions.
    – Roger V.
    Sep 20, 2022 at 8:20
  • @RogerVadim Just to be clear: revenge killing of pieds-noirs would have been on the Algerian government's conscience, not France's. And the possibility of exile to Russia for collaborators does not absolve the Ukrainian government of its responsibilities on Ukrainian soil. I'll give you another example of the lack of "adequate moral leadership" going spectacularly wrong: Abu Ghraib. Whatever goodwill, if any, the US had for booting Saddam, evaporated because an extremely small group of morons felt empowered to carry out abuses. That's on Rumsfeld & co: good leadership would have avoided Sep 20, 2022 at 16:20
  • I didn't blame France for killings of pied-noirs - France was the occupier/colonizer in this case and harkis were considered as collaborators. US invasion has resulted in half a million of deaths - talking about Abu Ghraib doesn't fix this or the moral issues involved. Why do you react, as if I have some hidden agenda?
    – Roger V.
    Sep 20, 2022 at 16:42

1 Answer 1


Zelenskyy: collaborators to be convicted according to the law of Ukraine

Zenenskyy's speech on 19/Sep (video/UA, transcript/UA) seems to answer your question.
Translation and highlight mine:

[…] The collaborators, similarly, have {only two} options: either they try to flee (and it's an open question whether the russia lets them in, even for it gave them its passports), or they will be convicted according to the law of Ukraine.

By the way, I want to thank the National Police for quick restoring law and order in the newly liberated territory.

So yes, there are only two options, both assume that the prosecution should be lawful.

Note that establishing law and order after the liberation is a crucial precondition for the legitimate government were able to prevent crimes against the collaborators, and this is why Zelenskyy speaks about police restoring law and order.

Ukraine is fighting for the rule of law

For example, 2-3 months back the BBC publicized a few instances of alleged abuses of Russian POWs. Zelenskky's response was that such cases were against policy, would be looked into, and would be punished if confirmed.

Yes. The whole idea of Revolution of Dignity was about Ukraine's attempt to become closer to the civilized world. This was exactly what russia has attempted to prevent by its armed invasion, and this is what Ukraine is fighting for today, the European values, the rule of law. Any transgression, real or suspected, against the POW would be against the international law and so it would undermine the whole purpose of Ukraine's liberation movement. In addition, rest assured, such cases would be quickly inflated to jeopardize the international support to Ukraine.

When Ukraine can take the responsibility for legal prosecution of collaborators

Note, however, that the international law makes clear difference between POW (and crimes against those, by a government including its armed forces), like in case you have mentioned, and guerilla war (in which civilians fight against the enemy).

  • during the period of occupation, any civil resistance, including the execution of russians and collaborators, is considered guerrilla war, hence not prosecuted by Ukrainian law.
  • after the liberation, the defending state is only responsible after its legitimate government begins exercising full power. The "grey zone" could extend up to one year, see below.

I would recommend the interview of Mykola Holomsha, Ukraine's ex-Deputy Prosecutor General (video/UA, transcript/UA) who explains it in simple words.

Fifty shades of collaboration

[…] some Ukrainians collaborated with the Russians, or at least accepted jobs to feed themselves and their families.

Accepting a job to feed one's family is neither equivalent to collaboration nor to high treason.

Article 111-1 of Criminal Code of Ukraine (hereinafter referred to as CCU) includes in the definition of collaboration such activities performed by a Ukrainian citizen as (in terms of jobs) cooperation with the aggressor state, its armed formations, or its occupation administration. (Review in English; Full text in Ukrainian)

Simply speaking, a person who's baking bread or selling goods in a store is likely not committing a crime.
However, someone who "accepts a job" of a russian polizei clearly aids the aggressor's armed formations. Someone who agrees to teach Ukrainian children that there is no Ukraine, and the Ukrainians are just spoiled russians who should be "healed" (denationalized), promotes the enemy's agenda. Such people are, indeed, in trouble.

In addition, the CCU’s Article 40 details exceptions to a criminal action because of physical violence or mental coercion, like threats or physical violence, including directed to relatives.

Time considerations

From past experiences, such as post-liberation France in 1944, there is a risk of summary justice being handed out […]

The source you linked, along with others I've read, mention that lynching, voluntary expulsions, and even executions of collaborators has occurred within a short period, primarily before the legitimate government institutions began exercising the functions of government (read: police, courts, prisons, etc.):

the historians have restricted it to a conceptual cage of a few months of high emotional drama during the liberation — Megan Koreman: The Collaborator's Penance: The Local Purge, 1944-5

The first phase (épuration sauvage) consisted of popular convictions, summary executions, and the shaving of women's heads. Estimates by police prefects made in 1948 and 1952 were that as many as six thousand executions occurred before the liberation of France, and four thousand thereafter. — Wikipedia

I believe, this influenced the future laws made included a clear definition of period of occupation, during which the occupant is responsible for crimes. Article 6 of the Geneva Convention defines End Of Occupation as follows:

In the case of occupied territory, the application of the present Convention shall cease one year after the general close of military operations; however, the Occupying Power shall be bound, during the duration of the occupation, to the extent that such Power exercises the functions of government in such territory, […].”

  • Good general answer, but saying that they will be prosecuted according to the law isn't quite the same as telling people not to be doing summary justice. It's implied, yes, not going to be arguing against that. And I am sympathetic to Ukraine in this. But avoiding spontaneous revenge-taking, IMHO, requires straight-out communication specifically telling people not to be extra-judicial. The circumstances are such that slippages are almost inevitable otherwise. Is there anything on record about specifically telling people not to take matters in their own hands? Sep 20, 2022 at 15:48
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica I am not sure I agree with the view (that a president making a public statement that cases of some criminal action will be treated as criminal) stops short of a public call to allow the law enforcement handle it. Certainly it stops short of creating a protected category which would make them untouchable by anyone other than the police. But that only puts them on the same footing as other citizens committing other crimes. If the authorities say it must be treated as a crime, then any non-LE trying to handle it would be vigilantes.
    – wrod
    Sep 21, 2022 at 6:25
  • 1
    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica I see your point, it make a perfect sense. Usually (at least, in UA) politicians do not make such statements in advance, because it would look like they know about some bad fact and are hiding it. Like in a bad comedy, "hey Billy, I was walking by your house and it suddenly came to my mind, you know, you'll get 25 years in jail if you kill John; not that I'm accusing you of doing so, it's just a friendly reminder". Anyway, I'm monitoring the UA press and will update my answer as soon as a top official says something like this. Sep 24, 2022 at 12:23

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