“Russian soldiers shot civilians in every city,” they say in Ukraine


Human Rights Watch has documented several cases in which Russian forces violated the laws of war against civilians in the occupied territories of Ukraine’s Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Kyiv regions. These include a case of repeated rape; two counts of summary executions, one by six men, the other by one man; and other instances of unlawful violence and threats against civilians between February 27 and March 14, 2022.

Soldiers were also involved in looting civilian property, including food, clothing, and firewood. Those who committed these abuses are responsible for war crimes, Human Rights Watch said.

“The cases we have documented amount to unspeakable, premeditated cruelty and violence against Ukrainian civilians,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Rape, murder and other acts of violence against persons in the custody of Russian forces should be investigated as war crimes.”


A police officer stands next to six unidentified charred bodies lying on the ground in a residential area in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo credit: Associated Press.

Human Rights Watch interviewed witnesses, victims, and residents of Russian-held territories in person or by phone. Some people asked to be identified only by their first name or pseudonym for their protection.

  • One woman told Human Rights Watch that on March 13, a Russian soldier repeatedly raped her at a school in the Kharkiv region, where she and her family had taken refuge. Human Rights Watch reviewed two photos the woman provided to Human Rights Watch showing her facial injuries.
  • On March 6, in the village of Vorzel, some 50 kilometers northwest of Kyiv, Russian soldiers threw a smoke grenade into a basement and then shot dead a woman and a 14-year-old child as they came out of the basement where they had been sheltering.
  • A 60-year-old man told Human Rights Watch that on March 4, a Russian soldier threatened to have him and his son executed in Zabuchchya, a village northwest of Kyiv, after searching their house and finding a hunting rifle in the backyard found gasoline.
  • According to the mother of one of the men, Russian forces arrested and later executed at least six men in the village of Staryi Bykiv in the Chernihiv region on February 27.
  • On March 4, Russian forces rounded up five men in Bucha, about 30 kilometers northwest of Kyiv, and summarily executed one of them.
  • A witness told Human Rights Watch that soldiers forced the five men to kneel by the side of the road, pulled their T-shirts over their heads, and shot one of the men in the back of the head. “He fell [over]’ said the witness, ‘and the women [present at the scene] screamed.”

Source: Human Rights Watch report


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