Amnesty accuses Russia of war crimes and unlawful killings in Ukraine

Charity says it has documented torture and executions in areas near Kyiv

Grim discoveries in the ruins of Bucha, near Kyiv, added to global outrage at Russia's military actions in Ukraine. Reuters

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Amnesty International said on Friday it had documented extensive war crimes by Russian forces in Ukraine, including extrajudicial killings, torture and bombardment of civilian homes.

Investigator Donatella Rovera said these were "not isolated incidents ... these are very much part of a pattern wherever Russian forces were in control of a town or village".

The charity's findings are the latest to allege atrocities by Russian forces in areas near Kyiv, which they occupied in the early weeks of the war before refocusing their invasion on eastern Ukraine.

Grisly images of dead bodies in the streets of Bucha and other towns caused global revulsion after they came to light last month, prompting additional sanctions on Russia and calls for greater military support for Ukraine.

Ukrainian authorities say they are investigating more than 9,000 potential war crimes by Russian troops. The International Criminal Court is also looking into alleged atrocities.

The evidence collected by Amnesty and published on Friday "can be used, hopefully, for holding the perpetrators to account, if not today, one day in the future", Ms Rovera said.

Amnesty's 44-page report says survivors found dead bodies with their hands tied behind their backs and bullet holes in their heads. One witness reported three men being shot after having their hands up and their bodies dragged away to a roadside where investigators found Russian military rations.

A bereaved widow quoted by Amnesty described Russian soldiers looting apartments, tying up her family and hitting her husband with their rifle butts before eventually killing him. Investigators said photos of the body suggested extensive bruising and said other victims had been beaten and tortured.

One victim in Bucha was named as Yevhen Petrashenko, 43, a sales manager, who was allegedly killed in his kitchen while his wife and children were hiding in the basement. It said Russian troops allowed his wife, Tatiana, to enter the apartment, where she found her husband’s body.

Their neighbour Leonid Bodnarchuk, 44, a construction worker, was shot dead by Russian soldiers as he climbed the stairs, and the military hen threw a grenade into the stairwell, Amnesty said. It said its findings were based on dozens of interviews as well as documentary evidence.

Killings in Bucha were carried out with special rifles used by some Russian units, the report said. Investigators found 7N12 armour-piercing rounds with a 9x39mm black tip, which are used by elite units of the Russian army, at the scene.

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

It quoted Borodyanka resident Vasyl Yaroshenko, who said 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.”

Researchers also found evidence suggesting that specific units of the Russian army were involved, including training books that belonged to a driver from the 104th regiment of the Airborne Forces.

Kyiv regional governor Oleksandr Pavlyuk has said that at least 1,235 civilian bodies have been found in the area. Russia denies war crimes and says the images from Bucha are a fabrication, but satellite images released by western powers suggested the dead bodies appeared on Russia's watch.

“The pattern of crimes committed by Russian forces that we have documented includes unlawful attacks and wilful killings of civilians,” said Amnesty's secretary general, Agnes Callamard.

“We have met families whose loved ones were killed in horrific attacks, and whose lives have changed for ever because of the Russian invasion," she said. “It is vital that all those responsible, including up the chain of command, are brought to justice.”

Updated: May 06, 2022, 12:01 PM