Russian War Crimes Diary: Ukraine edition 12
As Russia’s 10-month-old war rages on in Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a series of daring trips this week to defy Moscow’s attempts to demoralize the war-torn nation as winter drags on.
On Tuesday, Zelensky paid a visit to Bakmut, a battlefront location in eastern Ukraine that in recent weeks has seen some of the fiercest fighting, to meet his soldiers in the embattled Donetsk region. Zelensky thanked his forces and received an autographed Ukrainian flag, which the wartime President then took with him on a high-profile diplomatic visit to Washington, where he met with President Joe Biden and addressed Congress to raucous applause. It was Zelensky’s first known trip outside of Ukraine since the war started.
During his speech to Congress, Zelenskyy vowed that “Ukraine would never surrender.” He thanked the U.S. for its support as billions more dollars – and Patriot missile batteries – were pledged to fend off Russian attacks. Biden, for his part, reiterated that Russia is “trying to use winter as a weapon” but that “Ukrainian people continue to inspire the world” in fighting them off.
But as attention turned briefly to high-level wartime diplomacy, the realities of war in Ukraine continue to be revealed by journalists, officials, and other organizations who are working tirelessly to fight for justice and expose the true horrors of the invasion.
Errant Russian missiles: the tragic death of a civilian
Life in the recently liberated Kherson is slowly returning to normal. But Russian missiles continue to hit non-military, non-strategic targets that sometimes result in the deaths of citizens. The New York Times published a dispatch from a small settlement on the outskirts of the city, that highlights “the randomness of death, the often life-changing violence and suffering visited in one terrible moment” from such attacks.
The report tells the story of Dmytro Dudnyk, a 38-year-old who died while visiting his mother-in-law on a day that six Russian missiles rained down on the city and surrounding settlements.
“It came out and it exploded before I put the potatoes in the pan,” Svitlana Zubova, Dudnyk’s mother-in-law, told the New York Times.
- You can read the story in detail, here.
A disturbing, disorienting week in Russian captivity
Ukrainian journalist Igor Bondarenko was captured by Russian forces and taken prisoner in the occupied Kherson region and held for almost a week. The journalist – who says he witnessed pits of dead bodies – was tortured during interrogations and held captive in a basement with no access to toilet facilities. His head was wrapped with an old rag to block his vision, and he was fed expired food.
The Kherson resident told Radio Liberty journalists about the bodies he witnessed: “Maybe eight men … I could see legs, arms, faces. I did not understand whether it was their soldiers or ours, it even seemed to me that there was one civilian,” he said.
- Read the full story of his experience in captivity, here.
AP investigation uncovered Russia’s systematic “hit lists”
An investigation carried out by The Associated Press found that Russia had compiled “hit lists” in a widespread campaign systematically targeting “influential Ukrainians, nationally and locally, to neutralize resistance through detention, torture and executions.”
Based on data obtained by the Ukrainian authorities, the lists were compiled by Russian intelligence services in teams that were bolstered last summer, ahead of the invasion. They consist of names, addresses, and photographic evidence that put “government officials, journalists, activists, veterans, religious leaders and lawyers” in the crosshairs.
The strategy, the AP notes, “appears to violate the laws of war and could help build a case for genocide,” and violates the laws of conventional warfare.
“Everybody can be a target. It shocked me,” Oleksandra Matviichuk, the head of The Center for Civil Liberties, told the AP. “We were prepared for political persecution … We weren’t prepared for terror.”
AP journalists spoke to some of the “lucky ones” who survived inhumane treatment and extreme physical and mental torture.
- Read their full investigation, here.
NYT uncovers in “damning detail” the horrors that unfolded in Bucha
The New York Times has published a video investigation that uncovers in “damning detail” the true horrors that unfolded in occupied Bucha, the suburb of Kyiv that was occupied by Russian forces early on in the war that put a spotlight on alleged Russian war crimes.
The investigation – which utilised local video footage, phone records, documents, and interviews – compiles a highly detailed account of the carnage that Russian soldiers inflicted on Bucha’s Yablunska Street. It found “conclusive evidence” linking Russia’s 234th Guards Air Assault Regiment – a paratrooper unit based in Pskov in western Russia – and its commanders to the killing of civilians.
The investigation uncovers in “damning detail” that the killings “were not random acts of violence” but were part of a “methodical, planned and lethal operation that may amount to crimes against humanity.”
“At four locations, we caught soldiers in the act of killing by identifying vehicle markings … and the code names of commanders heard over the radio,” the NYT narrator says in the video.
- You can watch the 30-minute-long video investigation, here.
POW: Electric shock torture Russian forces “favourite pastimes”
Ukrainian anti-terror veteran and activist Maksym Negrov was abducted by Russian forces near the beginning of the war in Ukraine’s Kherson region. He was held for several weeks with alongside other prisoners who were frequently beaten and subject to electric shocks during interrogations, a form of torture he describes as Russian occupiers “favorite pastimes”.
“The most terrible thing was that all the time you could hear the screams of those who were being tortured by the Russian occupiers,” he told Radio Liberty journalists, “and this is all next to an ordinary residential building.”
Russian forces in the Kherson region prioritised capturing military personnel near the beginning of the war, `Negrov says, to try and gather intelligence on the positions of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. “They were killing there … I heard how corpses were taken out, how people were tortured and raped,” he said.
- You can find the full story, here.
Edited by Stephen McGrath
Photo:Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was presented with a flag autographed by troops in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, during a week of high-profile diplomacy as the war grinds on. (Source: Telegram channel of President Zelensky).
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