United Nations The U.S. has said its investigators have concluded that Russia committed war crimes in Ukraine, including bombing civilian areas, multiple executions, torture and horrific sexual violence.
The United Nations has prioritized investigations into human rights violations in war, and in May its apex human rights body mandated a team of experts to begin work in the country.
Since then, UN investigators have risked their lives to collect evidence of crimes committed against civilians, including in areas that are still threatened by enemy forces or dotted with mines. went.
The team of three independent experts presented its first verbal update to the UN Human Rights Council on Friday, after launching a preliminary investigation looking at the regions of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy regions, and said it would broaden its inquiries.
A day before the seven-month anniversary of Russia’s invasion of its neighbour, the head of the investigative team, Eric Mosse, told the council that, based on the evidence gathered by the commission of inquiry, Ukraine“It concludes that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine”.
The team of investigators visited 27 towns and settlements as well as graves and detention and torture centers; interviewed more than 150 victims and witnesses; and met with advocacy groups and government officials.
Mosse said the team was particularly “killed by a large number of executions in the areas we visited”, and often had “visible signs of execution on the body, such as hands tied behind backs, gunshots to the head.” The wound and throat were slit.”
He said it was investigating such deaths in 16 towns and settlements, and had received credible allegations about many more cases that it would seek documentation. The council was told that investigators had also received “frequent accounts of abuse and torture committed during unlawful confinement”.
In the settlements of Buka, Hostomel and Borodienka, occupied by Russian troops for almost a month, Ukrainian investigators found dozens of mass graves, where the bodies of civilians tortured and murdered were buried.
As the Russians withdrew from the area, a group of young volunteers worked tireless efforts to retrieve the dead bodies And send them to forensic doctors who are collecting evidence of crimes committed by Russian soldiers.
Some of the victims told investigators that they had been transferred to Russia and held in prisons for weeks. Others “disappeared” after such transfers. “Interlocutors described beatings, electric shocks and forced nudity, as well as other types of violations in such detention facilities,” Mosse said.
Mosse said the team also processed “two incidents of abuse by Ukrainian forces against soldiers of the Russian Federation”, adding that “despite the few in number, such cases remain the subject of our attention”.
He said investigators had also documented cases of sexual and gender-based violence, in some cases establishing that Russian soldiers were the perpetrators.
“There are many cases where relatives were forced to witness the crime,” he said. “In the cases we investigated, victims of sexual and gender-based violence were between the ages of four and 82.”
Moses said the commission had documented a wide range of crimes against children, including “raped, tortured and unlawfully confined” children.
In April, forensic doctors told the Guardian they had found evidence that Some women were raped before being killed by the Russian army. “We already have some cases that suggest these women were raped before they were shot,” Vladislav Perovsky, a Ukrainian forensic doctor who has conducted dozens of autopsies on people from Buka, Irpin and Borodienka, told the Guardian. told.
At least two men are accused of sexual assault and rape on a list of accused Russian war criminals released by Ukrainian prosecutors.
Moses, in his report to the council, pointed to “the use of explosive weapons of wide-area effect in populated areas by the Russian Federation”, which he said was “a source of immense harm and suffering to civilians”.
The United Nations highlighted that many of the attacks the team investigated were carried out “without distinction between civilians and combatants”, including attacks with cluster weapons, banned by most of the world under a 2008 treaty. Were.
Since the beginning of the invasion of Moscow, Russian troops have been accused of using a number of illegal weapons that have killed hundreds of civilians in the Ukrainian region of Kyiv, including extremely powerful unguided bombs in populated areas, which have killed hundreds of civilians. At least eight civilian buildings have been destroyed. ,
According to the evidence, the cluster weapons were spread in areas where there were no military personnel and no military infrastructure.
The commission’s work may eventually contribute to the work of prosecutors at the International Criminal Court who may charge war crimes in Ukraine, although it is uncertain whether Russia or other alleged criminals will ever face justice.
In a separate development, on Friday, Ukrainian officials said they had recently exhumed about 436 bodies from a burial site in the city of Izium and that at least 30 of them showed signs of torture.
Mosse said: “This is certainly a novel phenomenon but we certainly want to look at the Iseum phenomenon as well.”