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Russian forces executed and raped civilians in apparent war crimes, Amnesty investigators find

Russian forces carried out “acts of unspeakable cruelty and shocking brutality”, according to Amnesty International.

A woman walks amid destroyed Russian tanks in Bucha on the outskirts of Kyiv.
A woman walks amid destroyed Russian tanks in Bucha on the outskirts of Kyiv.
Image: Rodrigo Abd/AP

RUSSIAN TROOPS HAVE executed and raped civilians in Ukraine in apparent war crimes, according to fresh on-the-ground research carried out by Amnesty International.

Witnesses from villages and towns close to Ukraine’s capital Kyiv reported deliberate killings, unlawful violence, and widespread intimidation by Russian forces against unarmed civilians across the region.

Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said the testimonies show that unarmed civilians are being killed in their homes and on streets in “acts of unspeakable cruelty and shocking brutality.”

In the village of Bohdanivka, a 46-year-old woman said Russian soldiers pushed her, her husband and their daughter into a boiler room.

“They forced us in and slammed the door. After just a minute they opened the door, they asked my husband if he had cigarettes,” she told Amnesty International.

He said no, he hadn’t smoked for a couple of weeks. They shot him in his right arm. The other said, ‘Finish him,’ and they shot him in the head.

“He didn’t die right away. From 9:30pm to 4am he was still breathing, though he wasn’t conscious. I begged him… ‘If you can hear me, please move your finger’.

“He didn’t move his finger, but I put his hand on my knee and squeezed it. Blood was flowing out of him. When he took his last breath, I turned to my daughter and said, ‘It seems daddy has died’.”

That testimony was supported by a neighbour who witnessed the Russian soldiers breaking into the woman’s house and saw her husband’s body in the boiler room.

The woman and her daughter escaped from Bohdanivka later that day. The woman’s mother-in-law, aged 81, has limited mobility and was left behind.

In another incident in early March an 18-year-old in the village of Vorzel saw her parents gunned down in the street.

“I looked over the fence and saw my mother lying on her back on one side of the road, and my father was face down on the other side of the street.

“I saw large holes in his coat. The next day I went to them. My father had six large holes in his back, my mother had a smaller hole in her chest,” the teenager, named Kateryna Tkachova, said.

Locations Map Source: Amnesty International

Kateryna said that her parents were dressed in civilian clothing and unarmed. On 10 March, a volunteer involved in evacuations from areas around Kyiv helped Kateryna leave Vorzel.

The volunteer saw the bodies of Kateryna’s parents lying in the street near her house.

In a video verified by Amnesty, the pair can be seen writing Kateryna’s parents’ names, dates of birth and dates of death on a piece of cardboard, before placing it beside their bodies, which are covered with blankets.

Further killings and rapes were also documented in the cities of Hostomel and Bucha.

Deliberate killings of civilians, rape, torture, and inhumane treatment of prisoners of war are human rights violations and war crimes.

People also told Amnesty investigators they had lost access to electricity, water, and gas in the early days of the invasion and there was very limited access to food.

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Mobile phone connectivity was very limited and Russian soldiers confiscated mobile phones when they saw residents carrying them. Threats of violence and intimidation were also widespread.

Agnès Callamard said the incidents must be investigated as likely war crimes.

“The intentional killing of civilians is a human rights violation and a war crime. These deaths must be thoroughly investigated, and those responsible must be prosecuted, including up the chain of command,” Callamard said.

Amnesty previously collected evidence that civilians were killed in indiscriminate attacks in Kharkiv and Sumy Oblast, documented an airstrike that killed civilians queueing for food in Chernihiv, and gathered evidence from civilians living under siege in Kharkiv, Izium and Mariupol.

About the author:

Céimin Burke

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