As Proof Of Battle Crimes In Bucha Mounts, A Hunt For Russian Navy Units

On March 11, the commander of an artillery unit belonging to Russia’s famed 76th Guards Air Assault Division died in fight within the Ukrainian city of Bucha.

Captain Gennady Bayur was killed, based on a dying announcement revealed some two weeks later in a chat room of the social-media web site VK, in a land-mine explosion within the city northwest of Kyiv. He had commanded the 234th Guards Air Assault Regiment.

One other Russian soldier, from the sixty fourth Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade, misplaced his cell phone or had it taken from him when he was killed. In line with Ukrainian intelligence, which revealed a screenshot of the cellphone, it was present in Bucha; a quantity linked to the cellphone matches as much as a social-media account situated within the brigade’s dwelling base.

Bucha is against the law scene.

More and more, it’s also a worldwide synonym for atrocities which will have been dedicated by Russian troops through the first six weeks of their assault on Ukraine.

Days after Russian forces withdrew from Bucha, employees are struggling to clear the our bodies of dozens, probably scores of civilians from the city’s streets, from unexpectedly dug mass graves, and from constructing basements, and to offer them a correct burial. An unknown variety of the civilian corpses present indicators of getting been summarily executed, with palms sure behind their backs. Some had gunshot wounds to their heads.

Ukrainian and Western investigators, in the meantime, are struggling to compile proof and take witness accounts, as the federal government pledges to prosecute what it says are warfare crimes.

RFE/RL reporters, scouring by way of social-media posts, public lists of lifeless troopers, video footage from the devastated city, and different info, have sought to pinpoint a few of the army items that have been identified to have occupied Bucha between the beginning of the invasion on February 24 and April 1, when it was reclaimed by Ukrainian forces.

What Occurred In Bucha?

The presence of Russian army items in Bucha, and different Ukrainian cities and cities they’ve occupied, is just not proof that warfare crimes have been dedicated, and investigators could also be hard-pressed to build up conclusive, air-tight proof that would stand up to scrutiny in a courtroom or tribunal.

However within the case of Bucha, info that has already come to gentle — images, movies, eyewitness accounts — plus the truth that the city was below Russian army management for greater than a month, supplies sturdy circumstantial proof pointing to Russian culpability.

Bucha’s mаyor, Anatoliy Fedoruk, posted a video on March 31 by which he mentioned the city had been recaptured by Ukrainian forces following a Russian withdrawal. It wasn’t instantly clear if Russian troops had left on March 31 or earlier. The Ukrainian army mentioned its forces entered Bucha on April 1.

On April 3, Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, revealed an inventory of Russian items, each army and Nationwide Guard, that he mentioned had been deployed to Bucha and two different cities within the Kyiv area, Irpin and Hostomel.

Amongst these he named have been the 104th and 234th Airborne Assault Regiments of the 76th Airborne Assault Division.

Based mostly within the northwestern Russian metropolis of Pskov, the division is famend in Soviet and Russian army historical past, for each battlefield prowess and brutality. Through the Second Chechen Battle within the early 2000s, paratroopers from the 76th Airborne Division have been credibly accused of killing Chechen civilians indiscriminately.

The social-media put up concerning the dying of Bayur, the commander of the artillery unit, was one piece of proof pointing to the presence of the paratroopers in Bucha.

Someday round March 26, a video apparently produced by Ukraine’s army intelligence company appeared on-line, that includes a captured soldier whose unit is recognized because the 76th Airborne Division. The video was later eliminated by YouTube however a replica was revealed on a Ukrainian journalist’s Telegram channel.

Within the video the soldier, who’s recognized as Timofei Bobov, describes how on February 24 his unit was ordered to Ukraine and deployed to “clear up Hostomel or Bucha.” In line with Bobov, he was instructed to interrupt into residences in residential buildings with a crowbar and take the individuals who have been inside to the basement. He didn’t point out what occurred to them afterward.

RFE/RL couldn’t independently confirm the video, however there have been press studies from Bucha from witnesses who say their residence doorways have been pried open with crowbars and kin taken away by Russian troopers. There’s additionally footage of our bodies in basements.

Our bodies of civilians in plastic baggage lie in a mass grave in Bucha on April 4.

In a video revealed by AP on April 3 from Bucha, a discarded wood ammunition field is briefly proven. The field has marking on it indicating it belonged to the seventh Airborne Assault Firm, 234th Regiment, 76th Airborne Division.

Cell Cellphone, Instagram Account

One other unit recognized by Arestovych as occupying a few of the cities northwest and east of Kyiv is the sixty fourth Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade, whose headquarters is within the Khabarovsk area, on the Pacific coast in Russia’s Far East.

On April 3, a Telegram channel that seems to have hyperlinks to Ukraine’s army revealed a screenshot from a Russian soldier’s cellphone, describing it as “a cellphone of one of many occupiers of Bucha [that] was discovered.”

The screenshot confirmed an Instagram account with a cellphone quantity that RFE/RL was capable of hint to a 29-year-old Khabarovsk resident. RFE/RL was unable to find out whether or not the person was a part of the sixty fourth Brigade, however images from the person’s social-media buddies and acquaintances present troopers from the sixty fourth Brigade.

Ukraine’s army intelligence company later revealed an inventory with a whole bunch of names, and different figuring out info, of officers and troopers from the sixty fourth Brigade. That record may additionally not be independently confirmed.

Belarus Deployment

Different items identified to have occupied a few of the cities north of Kyiv embrace one other paratrooper unit: the 331st Guards Airborne Regiment of the 98th Division, primarily based in Kostroma, northeast of Moscow. The regiment’s commanding officer, Colonel Sergei Sukharev, was killed on March 13, and was posthumously awarded army honors. It was unclear precisely the place and the way he died, nevertheless.

The Protection Ministry in Belarus — from which most of the Russian items that have been despatched towards Kyiv entered northern Ukraine — additionally reported on a ceremony involving the 331st Airborne Regiment on January 25, a full month earlier than the warfare started.

On February 28, in the meantime, {a photograph} of an inventory of troopers killed in Bucha, from a unit recognized because the “2nd Squad of the 2nd Platoon” appeared on one other Telegram channel titled Search For Your Personal. The channel is crammed with images of Russian troopers who’ve been killed or taken prisoner in Ukraine.

RFE/RL traced one of many names on the record of killed solders to a social-media profile that means the soldier served within the 56th Guards Air Assault Regiment, headquartered in Russia’s Volgograd area.

Amid mounting worldwide outcry and condemnation of Moscow, the Russian authorities have denied that Russian troops have been concerned within the killing of civilians in Bucha or different Kyiv area cities. With out offering proof, Russian officers have claimed images and photographs extensively distributed by Ukrainian and Western media have been staged.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has instructed, additionally with out proof, that the photographs confirmed indicators of being faked, and that the timing of the retreat from Bucha signifies that Russian troopers couldn’t have been accountable. That assertion is contradicted by eyewitness studies from Bucha.

The U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch additionally collected proof and interviews with residents of Bucha, concluding that there have been “apparent warfare crimes” dedicated in districts managed by Russian forces.

Written by Mike Eckel primarily based on reporting by Mark Krutov and Oleksandra Vagner of RFE/RL’s Russian Service. RFE/RL’s Belarus Service contributed to this report

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