Ukraine: Evidence of Russian forces extrajudicially executing civilians
Russian military forces have extrajudicially executed civilians in Ukraine in apparent war crimes, Amnesty International said today as it published harrowing new testimony following on-the-ground research.
Amnesty’s crisis response investigators interviewed more than 20 people from villages and towns close to Kyiv, several of whom had witnessed or had direct knowledge of horrifying violence committed by Russian forces.
They repeatedly told of deliberate killings, unlawful violence, and widespread intimidation by Russian forces against unarmed civilians across the Kyiv region.
“In recent weeks, we have gathered evidence that Russian forces have committed extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings, which must be investigated as likely war crimes,” said Agnès Callamard, secretary general of Amnesty International.
“Testimonies shows that unarmed civilians in Ukraine are being killed in their homes and streets in acts of unspeakable cruelty and shocking brutality.
“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.”
To date, Amnesty International has obtained evidence that civilians were killed in indiscriminate attacks in Kharkiv and Sumy Oblast, documented an airstrike that killed civilians queueing for food in Chernihiv, and gathered evidence from civilians living under siege in Kharkiv, Izium and Mariupol.
One 46-year-old woman, from the village of Bohdanivka, said Russian forces entered her village on 7 or 8 March, and parked their tanks on the streets.
In the evening of 9 March, the woman – who lived with her husband, 10-year-old daughter and mother-in-law – heard shooting through their downstairs windows. She and her husband shouted that they were civilians, and that they were unarmed. When they came downstairs, two Russian soldiers pushed them and their daughter into a boiler room.
She told Amnesty International: “They forced us in and slammed the door. 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.
“He didn’t die right away. From 9.30pm to 4am he was still breathing, though he wasn’t conscious. I begged him: ’If you can hear me, please move your finger.’ He didn’t move his finger, but I put his hand on my knee and squeezed it. Blood was flowing out of him. When he took his last breath, I turned to my daughter and said ‘It seems daddy has died.’”
A neighbour witnessed Russian forces breaking into the woman’s house that night, and confirmed he had seen her husband’s body slumped in the corner of the boiler room. The woman and her child escaped from Bohdanivka later that day. The woman’s mother-in-law, aged 81, has limited mobility and was left behind.
Amnesty International collected three additional accounts of unlawful killings of civilians, including the account of a victim of rape whose husband was extrajudicially executed, by Russian forces.
A woman in a village east of Kyiv told Amnesty International that, on 9 March, two Russian soldiers had entered her house, killed her husband, then repeatedly raped her at gunpoint while her young son hid in a boiler room nearby. The woman was able to escape from the village to Ukrainian-controlled territory with her son.
Milena, a 24-year-old from Bucha, told Amnesty International that she saw the body of a woman who had lived on her street lying outside her house. The woman’s mother told Milena that her daughter was shot in the initial days of the invasion while looking over her fence at a Russian military vehicle. Amnesty’s crisis evidence lab independently verified video footage that confirmed the location of the shallow grave in which she was buried.
Volodymyr Zakhliupanyy and his wife fled the city of Hostomel in the first few days of the invasion, but their son Serhiy, 39, was determined to stay.
Initially, they spoke by telephone every day, and Serhiy described the heavy fighting in the city. On 4 March, Volodymyr could no longer contact his son. Friends who remained in the city then tried to find Serhiy, and went to the building where he had been sheltering in the basement.
Volodymyr told Amnesty International: “When they asked the neighbours, they said that on 13 March my son was taken away [from the basement] by the Russians. When they went looking for Serhiy, they found him behind the garages of the same building… they said he had been shot in the head.”