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Forensic investigators stand near body bags in Bucha, Ukraine

Policemen and forensic personnel catalogue 58 bodies of civilians killed in and around Bucha before they are transported to the morgue on April 6, 2022 in Bucha, Ukraine. The Ukrainian government has accused Russian forces of committing a "deliberate massacre" as they occupied and eventually retreated from Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv. Hundreds of bodies have been found in the days since Ukrainian forces regained control of the town. (Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Russian Extrajudicial Executions Described by Witnesses Amount to War Crimes: Amnesty

"When it comes to apparent war crimes perpetrated by Russian forces in Ukraine, Bucha is likely only the tip of the iceberg."

Julia Conley

Amnesty International on Thursday demanded thorough independent investigations into alleged extrajudicial killings of civilians in the Kyiv area by Russian forces, after the organization's crisis response workers gathered harrowing on-the-ground testimony from witnesses and survivors.

After interviewing more than 20 people in towns including Hostomel, Bucha, and Vorzel, the group said Russian forces have been extrajudicially executing people despite knowing they are civilians and called for the killings to be investigated as "likely war crimes."

"These deaths must be thoroughly investigated, and those responsible must be prosecuted, including up the chain of command."

"Testimonies show that unarmed civilians in Ukraine are being killed in their homes and streets in acts of unspeakable cruelty and shocking brutality," said Agnès Callamard, secretary general of Amnesty International. "The intentional killing of civilians is a human rights violation and a war crime. These deaths must be thoroughly investigated, and those responsible must be prosecuted, including up the chain of command."

A woman in Bohdanivka, northeast of Kyiv, told investigators that Russian soldiers shot through her family's windows on March 9. She and her husband told the soldiers they were unarmed civilians, but the Russians pushed the couple, their 10-year-old daughter, and the woman's 81-year-old mother-in-law, into a boiler room before fatally shooting her husband.

"They forced us in and slammed the door," she told Amnesty. "After just a minute they opened the door, they asked my husband if he had cigarettes. He said no, he hadn't smoked for a couple of weeks. They shot him in his right arm. The other said, 'Finish him,' and they shot him in the head."

An 18-year-old named Kateryna Tkachova said her parents were shot and killed by Russians on March 3, after several tanks drove down her street in Vorzel.

Tkachova's parents were wearing civilian clothing and were unarmed when they were killed, she said.

"Once the tanks had passed by, I jumped over the fence to the neighbor's house. I wanted to check if they're alive," she said. "I looked over the fence and saw my mother lying on her back on one side of the road, and my father was face down on the other side of the street. I saw large holes in his coat. The next day I went to them. My father had six large holes in his back, my mother had a smaller hole in her chest."

Amnesty released the testimonies days after photos of mass graves and civilians laying dead in the streets of Bucha, a Kyiv suburb, sparked global outrage. Ukrainian officials have accused Russian forces of a "deliberate massacre" in the city.

"When it comes to apparent war crimes perpetrated by Russian forces in Ukraine, Bucha is likely only the tip of the iceberg," said human rights researcher Laura Mills.

Amnesty International also heard accounts of sexual violence perpetrated by Russian forces, which Ukrainian authorities have said appears to be happening frequently since Russia invaded the country on February 24.

A woman in a town east of Kyiv told investigators that on March 9, two Russian soldiers killed her husband and raped her while her son hid in another room.

"As these horrendous accounts of life under Russian occupation continue to emerge, the victims in Ukraine must know that the international community is determined to secure accountability for their suffering," said Callamard.

The group called for those who have directly committed war crimes to be held criminally responsible, as well as "hierarchal superiors—including commanders and civilian leaders, such as ministers and heads of state—who knew or had reason to know about war crimes committed by their forces, but did not attempt to stop them or punish those responsible."

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