U.N. investigators said Friday that war crimes have been committed in the Ukraine conflict, listing Russian bombings of civilian areas, numerous executions, torture and horrific sexual violence.
“Based on the evidence gathered by the commission, it has concluded that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine,” Erik Moss, head of the investigative team, told the UN Human Rights Council.
The explicit nature of the statement was unusual.
UN investigators typically couch their findings on international crimes in conditional language, referring to the ultimate confirmation of war crimes and similar violations in courts of law.
The council was formed in May by the Commission of Inquiry (COI) – the highest-possible level of inquiry – to investigate Russia’s war crimes in Ukraine.
The team of three independent experts was presenting its first oral update to the council, after it launched an initial investigation looking at areas in Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and the Sumy region, and said it would expand the investigation going forward.
Speaking a day before the seven-month anniversary of Russia’s invasion of the neighboring country, Mose pointed to the “use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas of the Russian Federation”, which he said was “a source of enormous damage and suffering to civilians”.
– torture, sexual violence –
He highlighted that some of the attacks the team investigated “were carried out without distinguishing between civilians and combatants,” including cluster munitions attacks on populated areas.
He said the group particularly noted “a large number of executions in the areas we visited” and often “visible signs of physical execution, such as hands tied behind the back, gunshot wounds to the head and throat slits.”
Moss said the commission is currently investigating such deaths in 16 cities and towns, and has received credible complaints about many more cases it would like to document.
Investigators also found “a series of accounts of crimes and torture, which were carried out during the illegal detention.”
Some of the victims told investigators they were transferred to Russia and held in prison for weeks. Others “disappeared” after such transfers.
“Interviewees described beatings, electric shocks, and forced nudity, as well as other types of violations in such detention facilities,” Mose said.
The head of the commission said that investigators “also processed two cases of ill-treatment by Ukrainian forces against soldiers of the Russian Federation”, adding that “although small in number, such cases continue to be the subject of our attention.”
The group also documented incidents of sexual and gender-based violence, Mose said, in some cases where Russian soldiers were the perpetrators.
“There are instances where relatives were forced to witness crimes,” he said.
“In the cases we investigated, victims of sexual and gender-based violence ranged in age from four to 82.”
The commission documented a wide range of crimes against children, he said, including “rape, torture and unlawful imprisonment” of children.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and appeared on a syndicated feed.)