Human Rights Watch has documented evidence of summary executions, unlawful violence and threats against civilians, and repeated rape between February 27 and March 14. A report from the organization also implicates Russian soldiers in looting civilian property, including food, clothing, and firewood.
Ukrainian officials, meanwhile, have shared disturbing photos online of corpses strewn about abandoned streets in villages near Kyiv that were until recently under control of Russian forces.
Per international humanitarian law, belligerent armed forces are responsible for war crimes if they are found to have committed the willful killing, rape, torture, or other inhuman types of treatment of captured civilians and combatants who are in custody.
Residents of Bucha have given harrowing accounts of how Russian troops shot and killed civilians without any apparent reason.
At a logistics compound that residents say was used as a base by Russian forces, the bodies of 8 men could be seen dumped on the ground, some with their hands tied behind their backs.
Residents say Russian troops would go from building to building, take people out of the basements where they were hiding from the fighting, check their phones for evidence of anti-Russian activity and take them away or shoot them.
Iryna Venediktova, Ukraine’s prosecutor-general, said the bodies of more than 400 civilians were removed from Kyiv-area towns recently under attack by Russian troops.
Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said Sunday that scores of dead civilians were found on the streets of Kyiv’ suburbs of Irpin, Bucha, and Hostomel. He likened the scene to “a horror movie.” Many of the bodies had gunshot wounds to the head and had their hands bound.
Ivana Stradner, an adviser to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies with a background in international law, warned that similar images might emerge out of Mariupol once Russian forces leave.
“Russia, whether we like it or not, is a great power. It has United Nations Security Council authorization,” Stradner told Fox News in an interview. “Yes, we are absolutely outraged at what we see over there, but whoever expects the International Criminal Court to deter Vladimir Putin from committing further war crimes absolutely lives in a parallel universe.”
Stradner said the U.S. and its allies must send more weapons to Ukraine instead of “instead of relying on weak legal systems.”
“But this really is a test for the west, because if we don’t do more right now, what are we going to do when Putin uses chemical weapons or tactical nukes? He’s observing how we act and what we do,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong, sending thoughts and prayers to Ukraine is important, but it’s more important to send weapons and intelligence.”
In an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Zelenskyy said the attacks amounted to a genocide.
“We are citizens of Ukraine, and we don’t want to be subdued to the policy of [Russia],” he said. “This is the reason we are being destroyed and exterminated. And this is happening in the Europe of the 21st century. So, this is the torture of the whole nation.”
Russia’s Defense Ministry, meanwhile, has rejected the claims of atrocities against civilians in Bucha and other Kyiv suburbs as a “provocation.”
The ministry said that “not a single civilian has faced any violent action by the Russian military” in Bucha.