New U-M website documents war crimes in Ukraine


The University of Michigan’s Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia has created Ukraine Testifies, an online digital archive of testimonies from witnesses and victims of documented human rights violations, war crimes and atrocities in Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion Feb. 24, 2022.

Testimonies were collected by journalists and researchers working with The Reckoning Project, an international non-governmental organization that trains journalists and researchers to record, collect and conserve witness statements in a way to preserve their integrity for use in a court of law.

The project’s principal investigator, Geneviève Zubrzycki, director of the Weiser Center, and a team of research assistants, translators and editors prepared the data for analytical, legal, archival and commemorative purposes.

The website features two interactive maps, each allowing the user to visualize patterns of mass violence in unique ways. 

The Incident Map shows the location of violent acts against civilians. Users can zoom in and out to explore incidents in a specific region and then view details by clicking on the red dot. When zoomed out, the number appearing in a larger red circle represents the number of incidents clustered in a specific area. 

The Troop Movement Map provides a timeline of incidents in relation to the movements of Russian and Ukrainian soldiers. The slider on the bottom of the screen allows users to navigate the map in one-week increments. Troop movement data is adapted from political scientist Yuri Zhukov’s near-real time data system, VIINA 2.0/Violent Incident Information from News Articles.

Entries in the Archive of Testimonies contain basic information and a brief description of incidents. Those shown on the website are considered for legal prosecution, which prohibits the disclosure of certain information.

The identities of witnesses, victims and The Reckoning Project’s researchers are concealed to ensure their safety. Full summaries of testimonies may be available upon request.

“The collaboration between the Weiser Center and The Reckoning Project has been truly unique because it combines the skills of journalists, lawyers and academic researchers,” said Zubrzycki, the William H. Sewell Jr. Collegiate Professor of Sociology and professor of sociology in LSA.

“The contribution from our team is crucial — not only have we provided analysis of testimonies to identify patterns of violations and helped create a lasting memorial to the victims of Russia’s war in Ukraine, but we have also developed an innovative tool for educators to teach about the war and mass violence more generally.”

The Weiser Center will add incidents to the maps and archive on a quarterly basis.


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