The European Union on Sunday accused Russian troops of committing atrocities in the Kyiv region after the mayor of the town of Bucha said 300 residents had been killed during a month-long occupation by Russian forces.
THE EUROPEAN Union on Sunday accused Russian troops of committing atrocities in the Kyiv region after the mayor of the town of Bucha said 300 residents had been killed during a month-long occupation by Russian forces.
“Shocked by news of atrocities committed by Russian forces. EU assists Ukraine in documenting war crimes,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Twitter, adding all cases needed to be pursued by the International Court of Justice.
Ukraine said on Saturday its forces had retaken all areas around Kyiv, claiming complete control of the capital region for the first time since Russia launched its invasion on February 24. The mayor of Bucha, a liberated town 37km north-west of the capital, said 300 residents had been killed by the Russian army.
“Shocked by haunting images of atrocities committed by Russian army in Kyiv liberated region,” the president of the EU Council grouping the bloc’s member states, Charles Michel, commented on Twitter.
Russia has previously denied targeting civilians and rejected allegations of war crimes in what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine. The Russian defence ministry in Moscow did not immediately reply to a request for comment when asked on Sunday about bodies found in Bucha.
Michel said the EU was assisting Ukraine and non-governmental organisations in gathering the necessary evidence for the prosecution of crimes in international courts.
“Further EU sanctions and support are on their way,” he added.
A leading rights group also said on Sunday that it had documented what it described as “apparent war crimes” committed by Russian military forces against civilians in Ukraine.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a statement saying it had found “several cases of Russian military forces committing laws-of-war violations” in Russian-controlled regions such as Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Kyiv.
The New York-based HRW referred to Bucha in its statement, for which it said it had interviewed 10 people, including witnesses, victims, and local residents, in person or by telephone and that some were to scared to give their full names.
“The cases we documented amount to unspeakable, deliberate cruelty and violence against Ukrainian civilians,” said Hugh Williamson, HRW’s Europe and Central Asia director.
“Rape, murder, and other violent acts against people in the Russian forces’ custody should be investigated as war crimes.”
These, it said, included a case of repeated rape; two cases of summary execution – one of six men – and other cases of unlawful violence and threats against civilians between February 27 and March 14, 2022.
“Soldiers were also implicated in looting civilian property, including food, clothing, and firewood. Those who carried out these abuses are responsible for war crimes,” the report said.
Reuters was not immediately able to verify the HRW evidence.
Reuters journalists visited Bucha on Saturday, after being given access by Ukrainian forces who recaptured the area, and saw bodies wearing no military uniforms scattered in the streets.
HRW said on March 4 Russian forces in Bucha, “rounded up five men and summarily executed one of them.”
North-east of Kyiv in the Chernihiv region, the report said, Russian forces in Staryi Bykiv rounded up at least six men on February 27, later executing them. It cited the mother of one of the men, who said she was nearby when her son was captured and who later saw the bodies of all six men.
HRW said all parties to the armed conflict in Ukraine were obligated to abide by international law and the laws of war.
“Russia has an international legal obligation to impartially investigate alleged war crimes by its soldiers,” Williamson said.