Crimes in Bucha
Investigations started against ten soldiers of the 64th Motorized Infantry Brigade
The discoveries made in Bucha after the withdrawal of Russian troops horrified the world. The Ukrainian prosecutor’s office has now brought charges against ten soldiers. What is known so far about the Bucha atrocities.
The government in Kyiv and western countries have accused Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Above all, the pictures from the devastated city of Bucha shocked the world public. The AFP news agency documents what is known so far about the alleged actions of the Russian army there.
Butscha is occupied
Before the war, Bucha was a family-friendly suburb of Kyiv with around 37,000 inhabitants. The first Russian soldiers reached the city on February 27 and took control of the city on March 5, according to the human rights organization Human Rights Watch. At that time, an estimated 4,000 residents were still there. On March 31, the Russian army withdrew from Bucha.
First clues to crime
AFP journalists discovered 20 bodies in civilian clothes scattered several hundred meters on Jablunska Street on April 2. They looked like they had been there for at least several days. One man had fallen off his bicycle and others had their hands tied behind their backs. At least two appeared to have head wounds.
400 dead in mass graves
According to Bucha police chief Vitaly Lobass, around 400 bodies were discovered after the troops withdrew, including in two mass graves. Most were shot, about a quarter could not be identified. More than 1,000 dead civilians were found across the region, according to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna.
“These are war crimes and they will be recognized by the world as genocide,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his April 4 visit to Bucha. The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, traveled there on April 13 and called all of Ukraine a “crime scene”. A team of investigators from Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine will collect evidence on the spot and will be supported by the EU agency for judicial cooperation Eurojust, Khan announced.
Human Rights Watch conducted its own investigations and said it found evidence of war crimes, including torture, summary executions and enforced disappearances. Investigators from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights documented the deaths of 50 civilians in Bucha on April 9, including summary executions.
Vladimir Putin denies everything
A few hours after the first images of corpses on Jablunska Street were released, the Russian army claimed the scene was staged, since two of the dead were moving on video. An analysis of the video by AFP and the agency’s own film footage disproved this. Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Kyiv of “clumsy and cynical provocations,” while the Foreign Ministry accused Ukraine of killing the civilians themselves or putting the bodies there.
Satellite images from the US company Maxar Technologies compared with AFP images show that several of the bodies were in the open air for at least three weeks. The magazine “Der Spiegel” quoted radio messages between Russian soldiers intercepted by the Federal Intelligence Service (BND), in which they talked about the atrocities. In one conversation, one soldier told another that he and his colleagues had killed a man on a bicycle.
Investigations against ten brigade members
Kyiv blames the Russian 64th Motorized Infantry Brigade for the crimes. The troops were stationed in Bucha. The Ukrainian prosecutor’s office said on Thursday that they are investigating ten brigade members for war crimes. Putin signed a decree on April 18 praising the brigade for its “heroism and bravery.”
At the beginning of the occupation, mainly young Russian soldiers were in the city, a witness told AFP. Later, “brutal” older ones moved up. “The massacres began during this time,” said the woman.
According to the messages intercepted by the BND, Russian mercenaries from the notorious Wagner Group could also have been involved.