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After Russian forces reduced their operations in the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital, evidence of brutal war crimes against civilians emerged.
Human Rights Watch documented evidence of summary executions, unlawful violence and threats against civilians, and repeated rapes between February 27 and March 14. A report by the organization also implicates Russian soldiers in the looting of civilian property, including food, clothing and firewood.
Ukrainian officials, meanwhile, have shared disturbing photos online of corpses strewn across the abandoned streets of villages near kyiv that were until recently under the control of Russian forces.
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According to international humanitarian law, belligerent armed forces are responsible for war crimes if they are found to have deliberately committed murder, rape, torture or other types of inhuman treatment against captured civilians and detained combatants.
Residents of Bucha gave harrowing accounts of how Russian troops shot and killed civilians for no apparent reason.
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At a logistics complex that locals say was used as a base by Russian forces, the bodies of 8 men could be seen thrown to the ground, some with their hands tied behind their backs.
Residents say Russian troops went from building to building, pulling people out of basements where they were hiding from fights, checking their phones for evidence of anti-Russian activity and either taking them away or shooting them.
Iryna Venediktova, Prosecutor General of Ukraine, said the bodies of more than 400 civilians had been removed from towns in the Kyiv region recently attacked by Russian troops.
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Oleksiy Arestovych, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said on Sunday that dozens of dead civilians had been found on the streets of Kyiv’s suburbs, in Irpin, Bucha and Hostomel. He compared the scene to “a horror movie”. Many bodies had gunshot wounds to the head and had their hands tied.
Ivana Stradner, a Foundation for Defense of Democracies adviser with a background in international law, warned that similar images could emerge from Mariupol once Russian forces leave.
“Russia, whether we like it or not, is a great power. It has the authorization of the United Nations Security Council,” Stradner told Fox News in an interview. “Yes, we are absolutely outraged by what we see there, but anyone expecting the International Criminal Court to deter Vladimir Putin from committing new war crimes is absolutely living in a parallel universe.”
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Stradner said the United States and its allies should send more weapons to Ukraine instead of “relying on weak legal systems.”
“But it’s really a test for the West, because if we don’t do more now, what are we going to do when Putin uses chemical weapons or tactical nukes? He’s watching how we act and what we do,” she said. . “Don’t get me wrong, sending thoughts and prayers to Ukraine is important, but sending weapons and intelligence is more important.”
In an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Zelenskyy said the attacks constituted genocide.
“We are Ukrainian citizens and we do not want to be subject to the politics of [Russia]”, he said. “This is the reason why we are destroyed and exterminated. And that is what is happening in 21st century Europe. So it’s the torture of the whole nation.”
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The Russian Defense Ministry, meanwhile, dismissed allegations of atrocities against civilians in Bucha and other Kyiv suburbs as a “provocation”.
The ministry said “not a single civilian faced violent action from the Russian military” in Bucha.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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