Human Rights Watch accuses Russian forces of ‘apparent war crimes’ in Ukraine


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

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a statement saying it had found “several cases of Russian military forces committing violations of the laws of war” in Russian-controlled areas such as Chernihiv, Kharkiv and kyiv.

The statement, issued in Warsaw, came a day after dead civilians were found strewn on the streets of the Ukrainian countryside town of Bucha, near kyiv, three days after the Russian army withdrew from one month occupation. Read more

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The Russian Defense Ministry on Sunday denied that its forces had killed civilians in Bucha. He said in a statement that all Russian units had left the city on March 30 and that the images and photographs showing dead bodies were “a new provocation”. Read more

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

The Kremlin says its “special military operation” is aimed at degrading Ukraine’s armed forces and targets military installations, not civilians.

Asked about separate war crimes allegations on March 1, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a conference call with reporters: “We categorically deny that.” He dismissed allegations of Russian strikes on civilian targets and the use of cluster bombs and vacuum bombs as bogus. Read more

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. He said some were too scared to give their full names.

“The cases we have documented represent unspeakable and deliberate cruelty and violence against Ukrainian civilians,” said Hugh Williamson, HRW’s Europe and Central Asia director.

“Rapes, murders and other acts of violence against persons detained by Russian forces should be investigated as war crimes.”

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

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

Reuters was unable to immediately verify HRW’s evidence.

HRW said that on March 4, Russian forces in Bucha had “arrested five men and summarily executed one of them”.

Reuters journalists traveled to Bucha on Saturday and Sunday, after being granted access by Ukrainian forces who recaptured the area, and saw bodies without military uniforms strewn in the streets.

On Sunday, Bucha Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk showed a Reuters team two dead bodies with a white cloth tied around their arms, which the mayor said residents had been forced to wear during the month Russian forces occupied the city. Read more

Northeast of kyiv, in the Chernihiv region, according to the report, Russian forces in Staryi Bykiv rounded up at least six men on February 27 and then executed them. He cited the mother of one of the men, who said she was nearby when her son was captured and later saw the bodies of the six men.

HRW said all parties to the armed conflict in Ukraine are bound to respect international law and the laws of war.

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

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

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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