Crimes towards civilians: documenting the dimensions of abuse in Ukraine | Ukraine

Five days into the struggle, a Russian platoon commander and his unit arrived in Motyzhyn, simply off the primary freeway linking western Ukraine to Kyiv. They concealed tanks and artillery some of the bushes, excavated foxholes and commandeered the closest homes. One become the officials’ quarters, a 2d a base for jailing, torturing and murdering civilians.

The commander – Oleg Krikunov, 33 – was once higher recognized to his troops and sufferers via the nom de guerre Kaluga. The horrors he allegedly perpetrated and presided over for a month in a single small village in Ukraine had been catalogued via officers investigating atrocities performed via Moscow’s troops, who’ve designated him a top precedence on their listing of sought after infantrymen.

Ukrainian prosecutors had been flooded with proof of Russian struggle crimes. The scale of the abuses was once so nice, and the crimes so flagrant, that they’ve already compiled masses of dossiers, named dozens of suspects and taken a first a hit prosecution.

Since the beginning of the struggle the Guardian has documented crimes towards civilians together with torture, homicide and sexual attack, collecting firsthand accounts from survivors and witnesses, and cross-checking them with data launched via prosecutors.

Together they offer an image of ways the violence and abuse has been an integral a part of the Russian marketing campaign since its first actual days.

Photographs launched via prosecutors of the ones accused of killing and torturing civilians in a village north of Kyiv, together with Belarusians Sergey Vladimirovich Sazanov (pictured two times at centre proper and backside left) and Alexander Alexandrovich Stupnitsky (backside centre), and their fellow Wagner mercenary Sergey Sergeevich Sazonov (most sensible proper). Top left: Oleg Krikunov, 33, higher recognized to his troops and sufferers via the nom de guerre Kaluga.
Photographs of the Russian soldiers accused of the massacre perpetrated in north of Kyiv. At least four of them are members of the Russian 64th Motor Rifle Brigade, a unit based in the Khabarovsk region on the Pacific coast in Russia’s far east, accused of having killed hundreds of civilians in Bucha.
Photographs of the Russian infantrymen accused of the bloodbath perpetrated in north of Kyiv. At least 4 of them are individuals of the Russian sixty fourth Motor Rifle Brigade, a unit based totally within the Khabarovsk area at the Pacific coast in Russia’s a long way east, accused of getting killed masses of civilians in Bucha.

Motyzhyn torture camp

On 29 April, Guardian journalists talked to Oleh Bondarenko, one in every of handiest 3 males who survived Kaluga’s torture camp in Motyzhyn. Bondarenko mentioned he have been overwhelmed and left to die via Russian infantrymen. He misplaced a number of tooth to Russian attacks, his torso is riddled with scars, and he can have suffered everlasting injury to his backbone.

In an interview overdue in April, he recounted how the Russian platoon led him blindfolded to a compound the place the warriors had established a grim regimen for his or her captives. Each day civilians had been badly overwhelmed, their hands twisted and damaged; then, as the instant to be murdered approached, they had been shot within the arms or knees to reason most ache, then shot once more within the abdomen earlier than in spite of everything being killed via a bullet to the again of the top.

Oleh Bondarenko at the rehabilitation centre in Motyzhyn where he works as a counsellor. Bondarenko is one of only three men who survived Kaluga’s torture camp in Motyzhyn
Oleh Bondarenko on the rehabilitation centre in Motyzhyn the place he works as a counsellor. Bondarenko, one in every of handiest 3 males who survived Kaluga’s torture camp in Motyzhyn. Bondarenko mentioned he have been overwhelmed, tortured and left to die via Russian infantrymen. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

Bondarenko have been locked up for 2 days in a concrete pipe sunk into the bottom that served as a water cistern, simply sufficiently big to carry a person bent over in one of those slouch. While held prisoner within the compound, Bondarenko mentioned he may just listen the warriors torturing some of the civilians for an hour and a part. “I prayed they would take him quicker,” he mentioned.

Underground water storage cistern and well outsude Motyzhyn, Kyiv region, where Oleh Bondarenko was put by Russian forces after being tortured.
Underground water garage cistern and smartly out of doors Motyzhyn, Kyiv area, the place Oleh Bondarenko was once put via Russian forces after being tortured. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

Map appearing the positioning of the torture camp in Motyzhyn

Civilians had been buried in mass graves across the camp. There, investigators discovered the frame of Olga Petrivna, the much-loved head of the village council of Motyzhyn, in conjunction with her husband and son. Petrivna had selected to stick within the the city and coordinate help and territorial defence when the Russians arrived.

A large billboard of Olga Petrivna with her husband and son marks the entrance to Motyzhyn village. The message reads: ‘Eternal respect from the people of Motyzhyn.’
A big billboard of Olga Petrivna together with her husband and son marks the doorway to Motyzhyn village. The message reads: ‘Eternal respect from the people of Motyzhyn.’ Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

Mass graves came upon

In the villages of Bucha, Hostomel and Borodyanka, occupied for roughly a month via Russian troops, Ukrainian investigators discovered dozens of mass graves the place the our bodies of civilians, tortured and killed, have been buried. Since the Russians withdrew from the realm, a bunch of younger volunteers had been operating tirelessly to exhume the our bodies and ship them to forensic docs who’ve been gathering proof of crimes perpetrated via Russian troops.

In the woods on a roadside near Borodyanka, 40 miles from Kyiv, police were overseeing the exhumation of two men who were executed and buried next to what locals say was a Russian military checkpoint.
In the woods on a roadside close to Borodyanka, 40 miles from Kyiv, police had been overseeing the exhumation of 2 males who had been buried subsequent to what locals say was once a Russian army checkpoint. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian
In the villages of Bucha, Hostomel and Borodyanka, occupied for about a month by Russian troops, Ukrainian investigators found dozens of mass graves where the bodies of civilians, tortured and killed, had been buried.
In the villages of Bucha, Hostomel and Borodyanka, occupied for roughly a month via Russian troops, Ukrainian investigators discovered dozens of mass graves the place the our bodies of civilians, tortured and killed, have been buried. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

In the woods on a roadside close to Borodyanka, 40 miles from Kyiv, police discovered the our bodies of 2 males buried subsequent to what locals say was once a Russian army checkpoint. One was once a pension-aged guy whose head have been severed and nonetheless hasn’t been discovered. Both our bodies had been twisted and mangled and it appeared as regardless that their limbs have been damaged in different puts.

The son of the person whose head have been severed, Serhiy Kubitsky, was once there to witness the exhumation and provides a observation to the police. He and his circle of relatives had left the village for the security of western Ukraine when the struggle began, however his father had now not sought after to depart. “I didn’t believe it was him when they told me,” mentioned Kubitsky. He mentioned his neighbours discovered his father’s frame within the woods close to the Russian checkpoint on 17 March and buried him at the spot. The neighbours then returned to the grave to dig it up underneath police supervision.

In Borodyanka, close to the local hospital, investigators found the body of a 14-year-old girl along with that of her father and another man. According to witnesses, the girl and her father were trying to escape from the village by car but the Russians had been ordered to shoot any vehicle trying to leave the town. The bullets penetrated the car, left a few tens of metres from the mass grave where their bodies were found. The father died instantly. The girl, according to witnesses, passed away a few hours later.
In Borodyanka, with reference to the native sanatorium, investigators discovered the frame of a 14-year-old woman along side that of her father and some other guy. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

In Borodyanka, simply metres from the native sanatorium, investigators discovered the frame of a 14-year-old woman along side that of her father and some other guy. According to witnesses, the woman and her father had been seeking to get away town via automotive however the Russians have been ordered to shoot any automobile seeking to depart. The father died immediately when the bullets penetrated the auto. His daughter, in line with witnesses, gave up the ghost a couple of hours later. They had been buried in a mass grave lower than a minute away.

A woman walks in a cemetery of burnt cars in Irpin. The owners of these cars did not manage to leave the city. Dozens of people died while trying to flee their towns bombed by Russian forces.
A lady walks in a cemetery of burnt automobiles in Irpin. The homeowners of those automobiles didn’t organize to depart the town. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian
Civilian cars in Irpin riddled with bullet holes.
Civilian automobiles in Irpin riddled with bullet holes. Because of the consistent shelling, civilians had been buried in makeshift cemeteries across the cities and the positioning in their graves was once later reported to the police. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

The Guardian has photographed dozens of civilian automobiles in cities north of Kyiv, corresponding to Borodyanka, riddled with bullet holes as civilians attempted to escape. The consistent shelling supposed they had been buried in makeshift cemeteries across the cities and the positioning in their graves was once later reported to the police.

Vladyslav Perovskyi, a Ukrainian forensic physician who has performed dozens of autopsies on other people from Bucha, Irpin and Borodyanka, mentioned the method of figuring out other people was once complicated, given the state of decomposition of the our bodies discovered within the mass graves and the top stage of brutalisation perpetrated at the sufferers, even once they had been killed. He tells of other people killed after which beaten via tanks.

“There are many burnt and disfigured bodies that are just impossible to identify,” he mentioned. “The face could be smashed into pieces. You can’t put it back together. Sometimes, there’s no head at all.”

A morgue in the Kyiv region overfilled with bodybags.
A morgue within the Kyiv area overfilled with bodybags. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

By the start of March, the native morgues of Kyiv had not more area for the lifeless who arrived on a daily basis via the dozen to amenities supposed for 30, so our bodies had been as a substitute piled in refrigerated vehicles. At one, an aged couple via tears described their son to the boys status inside of. He was once serving within the civil resistance, they mentioned, and betrayed to Russian infantrymen who had occupied their the city and had been removing Ukrainian combatants and previous infantrymen who had taken section within the struggle in Donbas. The Russians captured him, tortured him, broke his legs and arms and put a plastic bag over his head. Then they shot him lifeless and threw his frame at the aspect of the street.

The moment when a mother recognised her son’s body inside a truck full of unidentified bodies by the morgue.
The second when a mom recognised her son’s frame inside of a truck filled with unidentified our bodies via the morgue. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

Rape and sexual attack

Late in April, forensic docs instructed the Guardian they had discovered proof some ladies had been raped earlier than being killed via Russian forces. “We already have a few cases which suggest that these women had been raped before being shot to death,” mentioned Perovskyi. “We can’t give more details as my colleagues are still collecting the data and we still have hundreds of bodies to examine,” he mentioned.

Women throughout Ukraine are grappling with the aftermath of sexual violence perpetrated via Russian infantrymen. As Russian troops withdrew from cities and suburbs across the capital so as to refocus the struggle effort on Ukraine’s east, girls and women got here ahead to inform of the atrocities they suffered. Gang rapes, attacks at gunpoint, and rapes dedicated in entrance of kids are some of the grim testimonies amassed via investigators.

At least two males in a listing of Russian struggle criminals launched via prosecutors are accused of sexual attack and rape. One of them is Fassakhov Bulat Lenarovich, 20, a radio operator of the howitzer artillery department of the thirtieth Separate Motorised Rifle Brigade.

On March 12, at about 7pm, whilst in a village within the Brovary district, Kyiv area, Fassakhov entered the home of a tender lady residing together with her circle of relatives. He was once left by myself within the kitchen with the sufferer and, in line with prosecutors “using threats of physical violence against the victim’s family, using firearms”, compelled the girl to take off her garments and raped her. Ten days later, Fassakhov and 3 different unidentified infantrymen entered the home of some other lady and raped her too, taking turns with the opposite infantrymen.

On 9 March, prosecutors mentioned Romanov Mikhail Sergeevich, a serviceman of the motorised infantry of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, “in a state of alcohol intoxication”, “premeditated the murder of a local resident and the rape his wife” in an occupied village close to Kyiv.

“We have had several calls to our emergency hotline from women and girls seeking assistance, but in most cases it’s been impossible to help them physically. We haven’t been able to reach them because of the fighting,” mentioned Kateryna Cherepakha, the president of La Strada Ukraine, a charity that helps survivors of trafficking, home violence and sexual attack.

“Rape is an underreported crime and stigmatised issue even in peaceful times. I am worried that what we learn about is just going to be the tip of the iceberg.”

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