A group of United Nations investigators tasked with reviewing suspected war crimes Ukraine announced Friday they found extensive evidence of Russian atrocities against both military and civilian targets, marking the latest inquiry to claim proof of Russian offenses.
Erik Møse, the head of the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine told the UN Human Rights Council investigators reviewed “sites of destruction, graves, places of detention and torture, as well as weapon remnants” to determine war crimes were committed.
Investigators documented numerous cases of torture and unlawful confinements, including the transport of some prisoners to Russia, where they were beaten, electrically shocked and experienced forced nudity.
Møse said investigators were particularly “struck by the large number of executions in the areas that we visited,” with evidence of such killings being found in 16 settlements.
Numerous bodies in those towns showed “visible signs of executions,” including hands tied behind the back, gunshot wounds to the head and slit throats, according to investigators.
Evidence of sexual and gender-based violence has also been found in victims, who range in age from 4 to 82.
Russian attacks regularly do not appear to distinguish between civilian and military targets, according to investigators, which have included cluster munitions attacks in populated areas.
“The Commission has documented cases in which children have been raped, tortured and unlawfully confined,” Møse said. “Children have also been killed and injured in indiscriminate attacks with explosive weapons.”
Møse said evidence has been found of two instances of “ill treatment” of Russian troops by Ukrainian forces, but Ukrainian crimes are believed to be “few in numbers.”
Groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have also found significant evidence of Russian war crimes in Ukraine, while Ukrainian officials claim they’ve documented more than 30,000 cases of atrocities. Attention on alleged Russian war crimes has increased recently, after the discovery of mass graves containing hundreds of bodies in a forest near Izium, a key city in the Kharkiv region Ukrainian forces recaptured earlier this month. Concerns are also growing that Russia plans to significantly escalate the scale of the conflict. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Wednesday he is calling up 300,000 reservists to serve as reinforcements in Ukraine, and seemed to float a threat of using nuclear weapons, warning that “those who are trying to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the wind can turn in their direction.”
The Kharkiv regional governor said Friday that 436 bodies were recovered from an Izium mass burial site, including 30 that showed signs of torture.
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