February 24, 2024

Ukraine has been investigating more than 25,000 cases of suspected war crimes since Russia’s invasion five months ago.

Yuri Bilushov, head of the war crimes division of the prosecutor general’s office, said 135 people have already been charged, although only 15 of them are now in custody and 120 are still at large.

He told the Reuters news agency that 13 cases have been brought to court and seven verdicts issued since Vladimir Putin launched the invasion on February 24.

In May, a 21-year-old captured Russian soldier became the first person to be convicted of war crimes in Ukraine. He was sentenced to life in prison for killing an unarmed civilian.

“Sometimes we have been asked why we are prosecuting such … low-ranking officers. Just because they are physically here,” Mr Bilushov said.

“If the generals were here of course and we could arrest [them]we will certainly persecute generals.”

Reports said many civilians had been left dead on the street in Bukha, some with their hands tied, and satellite images revealed what appeared to be a mass grave in the town.

US President Joe Biden called Putin a “war criminal” and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky referred to the situation in Bukha as an act of genocide.

The first independent investigation into allegations of Russian violations of humanitarian law in Ukraine, published in April, found evidence of multiple war crimes.

A Ukrainian soldier looks at body bags as priests pray at a mass grave in the area around St. Andrew’s Church in Bukha

(AFP via Getty Images)

The preliminary report by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) found that the bombing of a children’s hospital and a theater in the besieged port city of Mariupol amounted to war crimes, as did the forcible removal of thousands of Ukrainians to Russia.

Investigators said there were “credible reports” of civilians being held by Russian troops and subjected to ill-treatment amounting to torture.

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