Ukraine: A Litany Of War Crimes Claims

Channels Television  
Updated April 7, 2022
President Volodymyr Zelensky (2nd L) walks in the town of Bucha, just northwest of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on April 4, 2022. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said on April 3, 2022 the Russian leadership was responsible for civilian killings in Bucha, outside Kyiv, where bodies were found lying in the street after the town was retaken by the Ukrainian army.



Russian forces have been accused many times of war crimes since they invaded neighbouring Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

From indiscriminate bombing to rape, torture and summary executions, accusations have poured in from non-governmental organisations, witness accounts and Ukrainian officials.

The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) is probing the allegations, as are several European countries, anxious to gather evidence for future war crimes trials.

Moscow claims the alleged atrocities were staged by the Ukrainian side.

Ukrainian forces have also been accused of possible war crimes involving the treatment of Russian prisoners.

We look at some of the allegations:

– Bucha –

The world reacts with horror to the discovery of bodies in civilian clothing, some of whom appear to have been bound by their hands and feet before being shot, in the Ukrainian town of Bucha after the withdrawal of Russian forces.

AFP counted 20 bodies scattered along a single street on April 2.

US President Joe Biden denounces “major war crimes”.

Bucha’s mayor Anatoly Fedoruk said 280 bodies were buried in mass graves during the fighting, with the number of corpses growing.

On April 4, the prosecutor general’s office said the bodies of another five men with their hands bound were found in a basement of a children’s health resort, also in Bucha. The men bore signs of torture, the statement said.

Meanwhile in Motyzhyn, another village west of Kyiv, police found the bodies of five civilians with their hands tied behind their backs.

They include that of the mayor Olga Sukhenko, her husband and their son, who were abducted by Russian troops on March 24.

Police showed AFP journalists four bodies, including that of the mayor, half-buried in a forest, with a fifth body located in a nearby well.

– Mariupol –

In the besieged southeastern port city of Mariupol, at least three people were killed, including a young girl, in an attack on a children’s hospital on March 9.

Another 300 are believed by local authorities to have been killed on March 16 when Russian forces bombed a theatre where hundreds of civilians were taking shelter.

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on March 30 her office had verified 77 incidents in which medical facilities were damaged, including 50 hospitals, with 10 of the facilities completely destroyed.

– Cluster munitions –

Bachelet also said her office had received “credible allegations that Russian armed forces have used cluster munitions in populated areas at least 24 times”.

Missiles carrying cluster munitions explode in the air and send dozens or hundreds of small bomblets over a large area.

Human Rights Watch said they were used in Vuhledar in eastern Ukraine on February 24, in the northeastern city of Kharkiv on February 28 and on three different occasions in the city of Mykolaiv in the south.

Amnesty International blamed cluster bombs for a “stomach-turning” attack on a pre-school on February 25 in the northeastern town of Okhtyrka, in which three people, including a child, were reportedly killed.

UN undersecretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs Rosemary DiCarlo told the Security Council on April 5 that allegations that Ukrainian forces were also using such weapons were being investigated.

Over 100 countries have signed a 2008 Convention banning the use of cluster munitions, but not Russia or Ukraine.


UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths (5th R) reacts at the site of a mass grave that Ukrainians had dug near a church on April 7, 2022 during his three-hour visit in Bucha, a day after he visited Moscow, where he met with officials to discuss the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, more than a month into the Russian invasion. – Griffiths said that investigators would probe civilian deaths uncovered after Russian troops withdrew. Evidence of civilian killings in Bucha and other towns around Kyiv – which Ukraine has blamed on Russian troops, allegations denied by Moscow – have shocked the world and triggered calls for new sanctions on Moscow. Russia’s President has denied any responsibility for civilian deaths, accusing Ukrainian authorities of “crude and cynical provocations” in Bucha. (Photo by RONALDO SCHEMIDT / AFP)


– Rape –

Witness accounts gathered by AFP and other media have underlined NGOs’ fears of the use of rape as a weapon in the war.

“Russian soldiers have committed sexual violence against Ukrainian women and men, against children and against the elderly,” Ukraine’s prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova said.

The wife of a Ukrainian soldier from the Russian-occupied city of Kherson told AFP she was raped by two Russian soldiers after being branded by a fellow resident a “banderovka”, a term referring to hardline Ukrainian nationalists.

– Ukrainian forces suspected too –

Human Rights Watch has called on Ukrainian authorities to launch an investigation into possible war crimes following the emergence on March 27 of video footage that appears to show its soldiers shooting Russian war prisoners in the legs.

AFP was able to geolocalise it to the village of Mala Rogan outside Kharkiv, which Ukrainian forces had just recaptured after an offensive.