Amnesty International uncovers more Russian war crimes in Ukraine

Putin’s soldiers killed father, 43, in his own kitchen while his family hid below in their basement, Amnesty says, as human rights group uncovers more Russian war crimes in Ukraine

  • Amnesty said it had collected evidence and testimony from eight cities near Kyiv
  • These included Bucha and Borodyanka which were under Russian occupation
  • Scenes in Bucha shocked the world after Russian forces retreated from the area
  • Many bodies were found with hands bound behind backs, and in mass graves
  • An Amnesty representative said she collected in Bucha armour-piercing bullets and shell casings produced at a plant in Tula, south of Moscow – for elite units

Russian forces committed extensive war crimes in towns and cities around the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, Amnesty International said in a new report.

The human rights organisation said Friday that it had documented several war crimes by Vladimir Putin’s soldiers, including arbitrary killings, bombardments of residences and torture – and collected bullets only used by elite Russian units.

In once case, Amnesty said soldiers killed a 43-year-old sales manager in his kitchen, while his wife and children were hiding in the basement of their home. In another town, the group reported that 40 people were killed in indiscriminate bombardment.

‘The pattern of crimes committed by Russian forces that we have documented includes both unlawful attacks and wilful killings of civilians,’ Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general, said in a statement. ‘It is vital that all those responsible, including up the chain of command, are brought to justice.’

The organisation said it collected evidence and testimony in eight cities near Kyiv, including Bucha and Borodyanka.

After Russian forces retreated from Bucha in April, bodies were found lying on streets, many with their hands bound behind their backs, and in mass graves.

Kyiv regional governor Oleksandr Pavlyuk said that at least 1,235 civilian bodies have been found in the region.

Ukrainian authorities say they are investigating more than 9,000 potential war crimes by Russian troops across the country, including in cities such as Mariupol and Kramatorsk. The International Criminal Court is also investigating war crimes.

Pictured: Three dug graves are ready for the next funerals at the cemetery in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, April 19, 2022. Russian forces committed extensive war crimes in towns and cities around the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, Amnesty International has said 

A view shows the building of a theatre destroyed in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 10, 2022. It is believed that hundreds of civilians were inside when it was hit by a Russian air strike

‘These are not isolated incidents. These are very much part of a pattern wherever Russian forces were in control of a town or a village,’ Donatella Rovera, Amnesty’s senior crisis response adviser, told a news conference in Kyiv.

Information collected by the group ‘can be used, hopefully, for holding the perpetrators to account, if not today, one day in the future’, she said.

The report concluded that Russian troops had committed a ‘host of apparent war crimes’ in Bucha, including ‘numerous unlawful killings’, most of them near the intersection of Yablunska and Vodoprovidna streets.

Rovera said she collected in Bucha armour-piercing bullets and shell casings produced at a plant in Tula, south of Moscow, for rifles used only by elite Russian airborne units whose presence in Bucha Amnesty had confirmed.

‘We also found and were able to view some military documents that indicate the presence of these special units in these places where these crimes were committed,’ she said.

Russia, which calls its invasion a ‘special operation’ to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists, denies its forces committed abuses. Kyiv and its Western backers say the fascism claim is a false pretext for an unprovoked war of aggression. 

Russia has denied war crimes allegations and claimed that the Bucha corpses were falsified as a ‘provocation’.

Marianna Vishegirskaya stands outside a maternity hospital that was damaged by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022

A Ukrainian serviceman walks amid destroyed Russian tanks in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, April 6, 2022. The town was the site of multiple Russian war crimes

A view of destruction of the city of besieged Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine, March 26, 2022

Amnesty International’s report described the shooting in Bucha of Yevhen Petrashenko, a 43-year-old sales manager, who was shot in his kitchen while his wife and children were hiding in the basement.

The Russian military allowed his wife Tatiana to enter the apartment, where she found her husband’s body.

‘Yevhen was lying dead in the kitchen. He had been shot in the back, (near his) lungs and liver. His body remained in the apartment until March 10, when we were able to bury him in a shallow grave in the courtyard,’ the report quoted her as saying.

Their neighbour Leonid Bodnarchuk, a 44-year-old construction worker, was shot dead by Russian soldiers as he climbed the stairs, and then the military threw a grenade into the stairwell, the report said.

The killings in Bucha were carried out with specialised rifles used by some elite Russian units, the report said.

Amnesty International staff found 7N12 armour-piercing rounds with a 9x39mm black tip at the murder scene, which are used by elite units of the Russian army.

The investigation also described bombardment of the city of Borodyanka, in which at least 40 people were killed in indiscriminate bombings that destroyed eight residential buildings.

It quoted Borodyanka resident Vasyl Yaroshenko as saying he had left his multi-storey residence for his garage when a bomb hit the house.

‘I saw a large gap in the building,’ he said, according to the report.

‘My wife Halina was among those killed. I still see her by the door of our apartment, the home where we lived for 40 years.’

The report says researchers found evidence documenting specific units of the Russian army that were involved, including training books that belonged to the driver of the 104th regiment of the Airborne Forces.

‘We have met families whose loved ones were killed in horrific attacks, and whose lives have changed forever because of the Russian invasion,’ Ms Callamard said.

‘We support their demands for justice, and call on the Ukrainian authorities, the International Criminal Court and others to ensure evidence is preserved that could support future war crime prosecutions.’

A Reuters investigation published on Thursday documented clues, including testimony and evidence focused on Yablunska Street, to the identities of individual Russian soldiers and military units present in Bucha.

The units included the 76th Guards Air Assault Division, which the Amnesty report also found was present in the town.

Other war crimes investigations are underway across Ukraine. 

Mariupol has been all but razed to the ground by Vladimir Putin’s forces. In March, a bomb struck a theatre sheltering hundreds of people, while another hit a maternity hospital. Tens of thousands of civilians are thought to have been killed there.

In Kramatorsk, a Russian missile strike hit a train station where thousands of Ukrainian refugees were waiting to escape the east of the country. 

Destroyed houses are photographed in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, April 30, 2022. The city was under Russian occupation for around a month

Policemen work on the identification process following the killing of civilians in Bucha, before sending the bodies to the morgue, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Speaking last night during a virtual address to a charity event in London, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that more than 2,000 Russian missile have been launched at Ukraine, and that there have been more than 2,600 reports of Russian fighter jets sighted in the country’s skies.

‘Each of these ‘arrivals’ is the death of our people, the destruction of our infrastructure,’ he said, before describing how the Russian occupation in the east of the country has meant that medical supplies have not been able to reach people.

Cancer patients have not been able to receive treatment, people have not been able to undergo surgeries and diabetics cannot get insulin, he said.

‘These are the consequences of the Russian occupation for a part of our land, for a part of our people, which we must liberate from the invaders,’ he said.  

Zelensky went on to say that 500 civilians had been evacuated from the besieged port city of Mariupol, that has been all but razed by Vladimir Putin’s forces.

‘There are many wounded (fighters), but they are not surrendering,’ he said of the fighters who are putting up a last stand in the city’s steel plant.

‘They are holding their positions.’

‘Just imagine this hell! And there are children there,’ he added. ‘More than two months of constant shelling, bombing, constant death.’

Some 2,000 Ukrainian fighters, by Russia’s most recent estimate, are holed up in a vast maze of tunnels and bunkers beneath the Azovstal steelworks and they have repeatedly refused to surrender. 

Ukraine said a few hundred civilians were also trapped there and as the battle has ramped up in recent days, fears for their safety have only grown.

There is growing speculation that Putin wants to finish the battle for Mariupol so he can present a triumph to the Russian people in time for Monday’s Victory Day on May 9, the biggest patriotic holiday on the Russian calendar. 

The fall of Mariupol would deprive Ukraine of a vital port, allow Russia to establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014, and free up troops to fight elsewhere in the Donbas, the eastern industrial region that the Kremlin says is now its chief objective.

Its capture also holds symbolic value since the city has been the scene of some of the worst suffering of the war and a surprisingly fierce resistance.

Zelensky called on the rest of the world to send more help to Ukraine, to aid its people and to help its forces defeat the Russian invaders. 

‘Ukraine needs up to $7billion a month to cover the state budget deficit,’ he said.

‘In total, it has been calculated that already more than $600billion is needed to rebuild what the Russian army destroyed. Just imagine this scale. That is why every manifestation of support, every sincere help to Ukraine is important.’

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