Kidnappings, rapes, executions, indiscriminate shelling of residential areas: the list of suspected war crimes by Russian troops against the civilian population in Ukraine is getting longer and longer – the atrocities were discussed at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday. Russia’s diplomats initially preferred not to appear at the special session of the UN body.
“So far, more than 1,000 bodies of civilians have been recovered in the Kyiv region alone,” said UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet when presenting the new investigation results. This information, collected by the UN Human Rights Observer Mission in Ukraine, is intended to be used in possible war crimes trials. The mission plans to present a report later in the year. Another UN commission is soon to start investigations in Ukraine.
Victims of the alleged Bucha massacre are among those killed around Ukraine’s capital. After the withdrawal of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troops, images of the dead caused horror around the world.
Bachelet also spoke of the “unimaginable horror” that people in the port city of Mariupol have to endure. “We estimate that the civilian death toll in Mariupol is in the thousands. Although the true extent of the atrocities, casualties and damage will only become clear with time.”
The High Commissioner also reported on the village of Yahidne in the Chernihiv region. Around 360 residents there, including children and people with disabilities, were locked up in the basement of a school by Russian soldiers for four weeks. “People had to sit for days without being able to lie down. There were no toilets, no water and no ventilation. Ten elderly people died.”
In another village, in the Kyiv region, Russian soldiers fired on a young couple, their 14-year-old daughter and a grandfather as the family tried to drive to their home. “The parents were killed while the child sustained two gunshot wounds.”
On Tuesday, Matilda Bogner, head of the UN Human Rights Observer Mission in Ukraine, which has been in existence since 2014, reported on sexual violence: “In a city that we visited, a woman was raped and allegedly killed by a Russian soldier. The same soldier then tried to rape her neighbor. The woman’s husband intervened but was shot by the soldier. He later died.”
However, the high commissioner said clearly that the Ukrainian side may also have committed war crimes, such as kidnappings. However, most of the kidnappings were carried out by Russian units. At the end of the special session, the 47 members of the Human Rights Council were to vote on another political condemnation of Russia.