Russian forces must face justice for war crimes in Kyiv Oblast

The town of Bucha, approximately 30 kilometres northwest of Kyiv, was occupied by Russian forces in late February. Five men were killed in apparent extrajudicial executions by Russian forces in a compound of five buildings set around a courtyard close to the intersection of Yablunska and Vodoprovidna streets, all between 4 and 19 March.

Yevhen Petrashenko, a 43-year-old sales manager and father-of-two, was shot dead in his apartment on Yablunska Street on 4 March.

Yevhen’s wife Tatiana told Amnesty International that she was in their building’s basement, while Yevhen had remained in their apartment. He had gone to help a neighbour when Russian soldiers were conducting door-to-door searches. Tatiana lost contact with Yevhen, whose body was then found in his apartment by a neighbour the next day.

At her request, Russian soldiers allowed Tatiana to visit the apartment. She said: “Yevhen was lying dead in the kitchen. He had been shot in the back, [near his] lungs and liver. His body remained in the apartment until 10 March, when we were able to bury him in a shallow grave in the courtyard.”

Amnesty International researchers found two bullets and three cartridge cases at the scene of the killing. The organization’s weapons investigator identified the bullets as black-tipped 7N12 armour-piercing 9x39mm rounds that can only be fired by specialized rifles used by some elite Russian units, including units reported to have been operating in Bucha during this time.

A collection of Russian military papers recovered in Bucha, which Amnesty International researchers analysed, gives further indications as to the units involved. They included conscription and training records belonging to a driver-mechanic of the 104th Regiment of the VDV, the Russian Airborne Forces. Notably, some VDV units are equipped with specialized rifles that fire the armour-piercing 9x39mm round.

On 22 or 23 March, Leonid Bodnarchuk, a 44-year-old construction worker who lived in the same building as Yevhen Petrashenko, was also killed. Residents who were sheltering in the basement told Amnesty International that Russian soldiers shot Leonid as he was walking up the stairs, then threw a grenade into the stairwell. They later found his maimed body slumped in a pool of blood on the stairs.

Amnesty International researchers found large blood stains over several steps on the stairs leading to the basement, as well as burn marks and a pattern of damage on the wall consistent with a grenade explosion.

In neighbouring towns and villages, Amnesty International collected further evidence and testimony of unlawful killings, including apparent extrajudicial executions: some victims had their hands tied behind their back, while others showed signs of being tortured.

In the village of Novyi Korohod, Viktor Klokun, a 46-year-old construction worker, was killed. Olena Sakhno, his partner, told Amnesty International that some villagers brought her Viktor’s body on 6 March. She said: “His hands were tied behind his back with a piece of white plastic, and he had been shot in the head.”

Oleksii Sychevky’s wife Olha, 32, and father Olexandr, 62, were killed when the car convoy they were travelling in was fired upon by what they believed were Russian forces.

Oleksii told Amnesty International: “The convoy was all fleeing civilians. Almost all of the cars had kids inside. When our car had just reached a line of trees, I heard shots – first single shots, then a burst of gunfire.

“The shots hit the first vehicle in the convoy, and it stopped. We were the second vehicle and we had to stop, too. Then we were hit. At least six or seven shots hit our car. My dad was killed instantly by a bullet to the head. My wife was hit by metal shrapnel, and my kid [son] was also hit.”

Amnesty International researchers who visited Bucha, Borodyanka and other nearby towns and villages in April, after victims had been exhumed (either from the rubble of collapsed buildings, or from the shallow, temporary graves in which many had been buried), found that many family members were unhappy with treatment of victims’ remains. Family members were concerned that the processing of remains was chaotic, that they were not kept properly informed, and that remains in some cases were not being correctly identified.

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