Russia has been accused of war crimes in Ukraine including the indiscriminate killing of civilians in the town of Bucha, northwest of Kyiv following its withdrawal from the area.
Shocking images released by AFP on Saturday reveal a massacre of civilians. They show the bodies of at least 20 civilian men have lying strewn across the street.
Alleged massacre near Ukraine’s capital
The dead, all in civilian clothing, are found in a variety of awkward poses, some face down against the pavement, others facing upwards with mouths open.
“Three of them are tangled up in bicycles after taking their final ride, while others, with waxy skin, have fallen next to bullet-ridden and crushed cars,” according to AFP journalists who accessed the town after it had been cut off for nearly a month.
One corpse can be seen with his hands tied behind his back with a white cloth.
WARNING: Quoted tweet has graphic content.
The city of Bucha's streets are littered with dead innocent people killed by Russians.#Anonymous will continue #OpRussia until Putin and his war criminals are brought to justice!#SlavaUkraini https://t.co/cMJkqiAz2y
— Anonymous (@YourAnonNews) April 3, 2022
The Mayor of Bucha, Anatoliy Fedoruk, said the dead civilians had received inhumane treatment at the hands of Russian forces.
“Corpses of executed people still line the Yabluska street in Bucha. Their hands are tied behind their backs with white ‘civilian’ rags, they were shot in the back of their heads. So you can imagine what kind of lawlessness they perpetrated here,” Fedoruk told Reuters on Saturday.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said the bodies of the men found with hands tied, “were shot dead by Russian soldiers,” in a tweet on Saturday.
Podolyak added, “these people were not in the military. They had no weapons. They posed no threat. How many more such cases are happening right now in the occupied territories?”
Evidence of Russian war crimes “a punch to the gut”
Growing evidence of Russian war crimes in Ukraine are “a punch to the gut”, the US secretary of state Antony Blinken said on Sunday, promising that America would join its allies in documenting the atrocities to hold the perpetrators accountable.
“We can’t become numb to this. We can’t normalize this. This is the reality of what’s going on every single day as long as Russia’s brutality against Ukraine continues,” Blinken said on CNN’s State of the Union.
The EU Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, says she is “appalled” by reports of “unspeakable horrors” in areas where Russia has withdrawn, and said an independent investigation is urgently needed.
Appalled by reports of unspeakable horrors in areas from which Russia is withdrawing.
An independent investigation is urgently needed.
Perpetrators of war crimes will be held accountable.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) April 3, 2022
Russian forces withdrew from several towns near Kyiv in recent days after Moscow’s bid to encircle the capital failed, with Ukraine declaring that Bucha had been “liberated.”
Russian alleged war crimes using children as human shields
In another accusation of war crimes, Russian troops allegedly used children as “human shields” while regrouping its forces.
Ukraine’s attorney general is gathering a dossier of claims about the Russian use of local children to avoid fire when in retreat from around Ukraine’s capital and elsewhere. Coaches of children were said to have been placed in front of tanks in the village of Novyi Bykiv, close to the encircled city of Chernihiv, 100 miles north of Kyiv.
Human Rights Watch has documented several cases of Russian military forces committing laws-of-war violations against civilians in occupied areas of the Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Kyiv regions of Ukraine, the organization announced on Saturday.
These include a case of repeated rape; two cases of summary execution, one of six men, the other of one man; and other cases of unlawful violence and threats against civilians between February 27 and March 14, 2022. Soldiers were also implicated in looting civilian property, including food, clothing, and firewood. Those who carried out these abuses are responsible for war crimes.
“The cases we documented amount to unspeakable, deliberate cruelty and violence against Ukrainian civilians,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“Rape, murder, and other violent acts against people in the Russian forces’ custody should be investigated as war crimes.”