Human Rights Watch accuses Russian forces of “blatant war crimes” in Ukraine

LVIV, Ukraine, April 3 (Reuters) – A leading rights group said on Sunday it had documented “blatant war crimes” committed by Russian forces against civilians in Ukraine.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a statement saying it had found “several cases of violations of martial law by Russian forces” in Russian-controlled regions such as Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Kyiv.

The statement released in Warsaw came a day after dead civilians were found strewn in the streets of the Ukrainian country town of Bucha near Kyiv, three days after the Russian army pulled out of a month-long occupation. Continue reading

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The Russian Defense Ministry on Sunday denied that its forces killed civilians in Bucha. A statement said that all Russian units left the city on March 30 and that footage and photos showing dead bodies were “another provocation”. Continue reading

The ministry did not immediately respond to the specific allegations in the HRW statement.

The Kremlin says its “military special operation” aims to demote Ukraine’s armed forces and targets military installations, not civilians.

Asked about separate war crimes allegations on March 1, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on a conference call with reporters, “We categorically deny this.” He dismissed allegations of Russian attacks on civilian targets and the use of cluster bombs and vacuum bombs as fakes. Continue reading

New York-based HRW referenced Bucha in its statement, for which it said it interviewed 10 people, including witnesses, victims and local residents, in person or by phone. It was said some were too scared to give their full names.

“The cases we have documented amount to unspeakable, premeditated cruelty and violence against Ukrainian civilians,” said Hugh Williamson, HRW Europe and Central Asia director.

“Rape, murder and other acts of violence against persons in the custody of Russian forces should be investigated as war crimes.”

These included a case of repeated rape; two counts of summary executions – one in six men – and other counts of unlawful violence and threats against civilians between February 27 and March 14.

“Soldiers were also involved in looting civilian property, including food, clothing and firewood. Those who committed these abuses are responsible for war crimes,” the report said.

Reuters was not immediately able to verify the HRW evidence.

HRW said on March 4 Russian forces in Bucha “rounded up five men and summarily executed one of them.”

Reuters journalists visited Bucha on Saturday and Sunday after Ukrainian forces retaking the area gained access and saw bodies without military uniforms strewn on the streets.

On Sunday, Bucha Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk showed a Reuters team two bodies with white cloths wrapped around their arms, which the mayor said residents had to wear during the month Russian troops occupied the city. Continue reading

Northeast of Kyiv in the Chernihiv region, the report said Russian troops rounded up at least six men in Staryi Bykiv on February 27 and later executed them. It cited the mother of one of the men, who said she was nearby when her son was captured and who later saw the bodies of all six men.

HRW said all parties to the armed conflict in Ukraine are obliged to abide by international law and the laws of war.

“Russia has an obligation under international law to investigate impartially alleged war crimes committed by its soldiers,” Williamson said.

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Additional reporting by Silvia Aloisi; Edited by Frances Kerry and Kevin Liffey

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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