Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venedyktova announced in a statement on Sunday that they have begun investigations on the war crimes committed by Russia against their people, which include 410 civilians murdered in towns in the Kyiv region.
Venedyktova said her office has already accumulated evidence via photos and videos on the matter, although documentation is ongoing through a special team working on the investigation. Venedyktova said that the once tourism zone of Kyiv has become a crime scene because of the Russian forces.
She described it as a "hell" from which they would get evidence to punish the inhuman actions of the Russian military. She stressed that they would hold Russia accountable in national and international courts.
"Prosecutors, investigators and judicial experts are constantly in line with the Bureau of Judicial Experts to conduct reviews, interrogations and selection of DNA samples. 410 bodies of killed civilians have been taken from the territory of Kiev region for April 1-3. 140 of them have already been examined by prosecutors and other specialists," Venedyktova disclosed.
The Guardian reported that the bodies were discovered specifically in the towns of Bucha, Irpin, and Hostomel which were reclaimed by Ukraine after the Russians have left. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said last week that the Russian military has withdrawn to regroup for a set of new attacks in the country's eastern area.
According to Venedyktova, the Office of the Prosecutor General has been working on criminal proceedings against Russia since they started their invasion last February 24. She said special attention is given to the hard-hit regions of Chernihiv, Donetsk, Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lugansk, Mariupol, and Sumy.
The special team working on the war crimes includes pre-trial investigation authorities, the Military Command, the Military Law Service, and the Office of the Prosecutor General. The team comprises a host of professionals that include doctors, forensics, and 50 National Police staff and prosecutors. The process, however, will take time since the people the team will be investigating--the witnesses and the victims--are tired and under shock after surviving so much horror brought by the Russians.
Parallel to the investigation, the international organization Human Rights Watch similarly announced on Sunday that they have already documented several cases of war crimes committed by the Russian military. The cases involved civilians in the Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine's Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Kyiv regions.
The organization said they have documented two cases of summary execution, repeated rape, and several other cases of threats and violence against civilians from February 27 to March 14, 2022. Russian soldiers were also found to loot civilian property for clothing, firewood, and food. These were based on interviews with 10 people that included victims, witnesses, and residents in the said Russian-occupied territories.
"The cases we documented amount to unspeakable, deliberate cruelty and violence against Ukrainian civilians. Rape, murder, and other violent acts against people in the Russian forces' custody should be investigated as war crimes," Human Rights Watch Europe and Central Asia Director Hugh Williamson said in a statement.
The two cases of summary execution occurred on February 27 in the village of Staryi Bykiv in the Chernihiv region and on March 4 in Bucha. The mother of one of the victims said that the Russian forces rounded up at least six men that day in February to execute them. The mother was nearby when her son was apprehended by the Russian forces together with another man. She later saw all six dead bodies after the execution.
The same thing took place in the March incident when five men were rounded up by Russian soldiers for summary execution. One of the witnesses said the men were asked to kneel by the side of the road and instructed by the soldiers to pull their t-shirts over their heads. One of the men was shot in the back of the head.
"He fell (over) and the women (present at the scene) screamed," the witness recounted.
These documented cases do not include the 45-feet mass grave discovered near Bucha's St. Andrew and Pyervozvannoho All Saints Church through satellite imagery taken on March 31 and released by Maxar. Local residents confirm that Russian soldiers were shooting at everyone they saw and buried the bodies there on the first days of the war, which Maxar estimates began on March 10.
While BBC Reporter Yogita Limaye testified seeing the bodies of five men in a Bucha home's basement. The men were wearing civilian clothing, had their hands tied behind their back, and appeared to be each shot in the head. The same scenario was discovered by the BBC team in the village of Motyzhyn.
Decrying the many reports of Russia's war crimes, President Joe Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin "brutal" and "a war criminal."
"You may remember I got criticized for calling Putin a war criminal. You saw what happened in Bucha--he is a war criminal...but we have to gather all the detail so this can have a war crimes trial," Biden said.