Ukraine’s prosecutor general has named 10 Russian soldiers allegedly involved in human rights abuses during the month-long occupation of Bucha.
Iryna Venediktova also told German TV that that Ukranian investigators had identified “more than 8,000 cases” of suspected war crimes since Russia’s invasion, which included accusations of “killing civilians, bombing of civilian infrastructure, torture” and “sexual crimes”.
Her comments came as the international criminal court (ICC) ramps up its investigation into alleged war crimes committed in Ukraine since the start of the war. The Dutch government will “very soon” send a team of “several dozen” forensic specialists to Ukraine on behalf of the ICC to gather evidence of human rights abuses, the ANP press agency reported on Thursday.
Russian forces’ retreat from Kyiv in early April left horrifying evidence of atrocities littered across the region’s suburbs and towns, where scores of bodies in civilian clothes were found lying in the streets or buried in shallow graves.
In a Facebook post on Thursday, Venediktova identified 10 soldiers – two sergeants, four corporals and four privates – who she said were all “involved in the torture of peaceful people” during the brutal occupation of Bucha, a small commuter town 18.5 miles north-west of Kyiv.
Venediktova said the soldiers were part of the 64th Motor Rifle Brigade, a unit based in the Khabarovsk region, on the Pacific coast in Russia’s far east.
“During the occupation of Bucha, they took unarmed civilians hostage, killed them with hunger and thirst, and kept them on their knees with their hands tied and their eyes taped. [The hostages] were mocked and beaten with fists and the rifle stocks. They were beaten for information about the location of the [Ukrainian] armed forces … and some were tortured for no reason at all,” she wrote.
Venediktova appealed to the public to help gather evidence, and said that Ukrainian prosecutors and police officers are now investigating whether any of the men were also involved in homicides.
Ukraine, together with a number of western countries and human rights organisations, has accused Russian forces of summarily killing civilians in Bucha.
Stanislav Kozynchuk, the deputy head of the prosecutor’s office for the Kyiv region, said that investigators are working with victims to identify the perpetrators of human rights abuses.
“Our suspects are military personnel from the Russian Federation,” he said. “We understand who was there, what happened, and now we are looking into these military units which participated in the killings.”
Some of the implicated soldiers have already been redeployed to fight in eastern Ukraine, he said.
In a recent report, Human Rights Watch said that “Russian forces committed a litany of apparent war crimes during their occupation” of the town, adding that investigators “found extensive evidence of summary executions, other unlawful killings, enforced disappearances and torture, all of which would constitute war crimes and potential crimes against humanity.”
The Guardian has reported that dozens of civilians who died during the Russian occupation of Bucha were killed by tiny metal arrows from shells of a type fired by Russian artillery.
Earlier this month, Ukraine’s defence ministry identified Russia’s 64th Motor Rifle Brigade as the unit that had occupied Bucha, publishing the names, ranks and passport details of all the soldiers.
Moscow has repeatedly denied any involvement in the alleged human rights abuses, while Russian state television has aired reports claiming that the images of dead civilians in Bucha were staged or the result of crimes committed by Ukrainian forces.
During a meeting with the UN secretary general, António Guterres, in the Kremlin on Tuesday, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said that “Russian forces had no connections to Bucha.”
“We know who did it. We know who prepared this provocation … We know who they are,” Putin added, without providing further details.
Earlier this month, Putin awarded the 64th Motor Rifle Brigade the honorary title of “guards” and praised the unit for its “great heroism and courage”.
“This high distinction recognises your special merits, great heroism and courage in defending your Fatherland, and in protecting Russia’s sovereignty and national interests,” Putin’s statement said.