Ukraine chief prosecutor says over 8,000 cases of suspected war crimes identified

Iryna Venediktova says alleged atrocities by Russian troops include ‘killing civilians, bombing of civilian infrastructure, torture and sexual crimes’

A woman stands next to three bodies in the courtyard of a house in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A woman stands next to three bodies in the courtyard of a house in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

BERLIN, Germany — Ukrainian investigators have identified more than 8,000 cases of suspected war crimes since Russia’s invasion, Ukraine prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova told a German TV channel on Thursday.

“It’s actually 8,600 cases only about war crimes, and more than 4,000 cases that are connected with war crimes,” Venediktova told the Deutsche Welle broadcaster.

Venediktova has been investigating and tallying the mounting cases of suspected crimes by Russian forces since their invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

There are now more than 8,000 investigators gathering evidence on the ground, she said, including state security services, national police and foreign investigators.

The alleged crimes documented include “killing civilians, bombing of civilian infrastructure, torture” and “sexual crimes” that are being reported in the “occupied territory of Ukraine,” Venediktova said.

Investigators have no access to occupied territories such as Mariupol, Donetsk or Lugansk, but “we can interview people who were evacuated from those territories,” she said.

Ukraine’s newly elected Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova attends an extraordinary session of the Ukrainian Parliament in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 17, 2020. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

They are also using “radio connections and audio connections of the occupants.”

At a UN session in New York on Wednesday, a senior US official had also spoke of “credible information” that war crimes may have been committed in Donetsk.

“We now have credible information that a Russian military unit operating in the vicinity of Donetsk executed Ukrainians who were attempting to surrender, rather than take them into custody,” said Beth Van Schaack, US ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice.

“If true, this would be in violation of a core principle of the law of war,” the official added.

Venediktova herself has spent the last two months traveling the length and breadth of unoccupied Ukraine gathering evidence.

In an interview with AFP in March, she described Russian President Vladimir Putin as the “main war criminal of the 21st century.”

Field engineers of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine conduct a mine clearing among destroyed vehicles on a street in Bucha on April 5, 2022, as Ukrainian officials say over 400 civilian bodies have been recovered from the wider Kyiv region, many of which were buried in mass graves. (Genya Savolv/AFP)

Cases she had already begun investigating at that point included a maternity hospital wrecked by shelling and a burnt-out theater that had been sheltering children.

Her office also announced Thursday that 10 Russian soldiers were under investigation on suspicion of war crimes in Bucha where dozens of bodies in civilian clothes were found after Russian troops retreated.

Venediktova said the cases will be prosecuted in Ukraine’s domestic courts. But the highest prize would be conviction in an international court.

Ukraine is not a member of the International Criminal Court but it has accepted its jurisdiction in the past, leaving the door open to a tribunal.

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