Hunt for the ‘Butchers of Bucha’: Ukrainian researchers claim they’ve identified 80 out of 1,060 Russian soldiers who were at site of massacre that shocked the world
- Researchers working with Ukraine’s cyber police are tracking the perpetrators
- They are using open source information and social media to find their details
- It comes days after Ukraine’s MoD named the 64th Motorised Rifle Brigade of Russia’s army as the primary unit responsible for civilian massacres in Bucha
- Ursula von der Leyen and Olaf Scholz recognised the massacre as a war crime
- But there are questions over whether the perpetrators will ever see justice
Ukrainian researchers have claimed they have been able to identify dozens of Russian soldiers they believe were involved in the massacre of innocent civilians in Bucha and other towns close to Kyiv.
Artem Starosiek, who runs a Ukrainian risk assessment and analysis firm, said his team has identified 80 of 1,060 Russian troops thought to be responsible for the massacre after working with Ukraine’s cyber police department.
‘We’re using social media to track down the soldiers we know were in Bucha,’ Artem told The Times.
‘We can get their phone numbers, addresses, families and even criminal records.’
The revelation comes days after the main intelligence directorate of Ukraine’s MoD said it believed that the 64th Motorised Rifle Brigade of the 35th All-Russian Army was the primary unit responsible for the Bucha massacre.
The ‘butchers of Bucha’ left a trail of death and destruction in their wake, as Ukrainian authorities discovered several mass graves and scores of corpses who appeared to have been tortured and executed.
The brigade’s commander, Lieutenant Colonel Azatbek Omurbekov, stands accused of organising the alleged rape, pillage and murder of hundreds of Ukrainian civilians.
Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz this weekend became the latest world leaders to recognise the massacre of innocent civilians in Ukraine as war crimes.
Ukrainian researchers have claimed they have been able to identify dozens of Russian soldiers they believe were involved in the massacre of innocent civilians (bodies of civilians in plastic bags lay in a mass grave in Bucha city)
Forensic technicians exhume the bodies of civilians who Ukrainian officials say were killed during Russia’s invasion and then buried in a mass grave in the town of Bucha, outside Kyiv, Ukraine April 8
The ‘butchers of Bucha’ left a trail of death and destruction in their wake, as Ukrainian authorities discovered several mass graves and scores of corpses who appeared to have been tortured and executed. The brigade’s commander, Lieutenant Colonel Azatbek Omurbekov, (pictured here after being blessed by a priest of the Orthodox Church) stands accused of organising the alleged rape, pillage and murder of hundreds of Ukrainian civilians
Omurbekov is commander of the 64th Separate Motorised Rifle Brigade involved in the occupation of Bucha, a town on the outskirts of Ukrainian capital Kyiv
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz this weekend became the latest world leaders to recognise the massacre of innocent civilians in Ukraine as war crimes
The pair joined Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in condemning the Russian military’s actions yesterday, with von der Leyen declaring that lawyers must be drafted in to examine evidence of war crimes on the front lines of Ukraine which she has seen ‘with her own eyes’.
‘My instinct says ”if this is not a war crime, what is a war crime?” – but I am a medical doctor by training and lawyers have to investigate carefully,’ von der Leyen told reporters on board a train leaving Ukraine on Saturday.
‘I saw the photos, (Ukrainian prime minister) Denys Shmyhal showed me… We could also see with our own eyes, that the destruction in the city is targeted into the civilian lives,’ she said, referring to the town of Bucha where the bodies of hundreds of civilians were found last week.
German Chancellor Scholz echoed his countryman’s assessment of the destruction in the town northwest of Kyiv: ‘This is something we cannot forget.
‘We cannot overlook that this is a crime. These are war crimes we will not accept… those who did this must be held accountable.’
But despite several world leaders labelling the actions of Putin’s troops in Bucha and other towns as war crimes, there are questions over whether the perpetrators will ever be brought to justice.
Last month, the International Criminal Court’s lead prosecutor Karim Khan said he had opened an investigation into possible war crimes in Ukraine.
Yet of the 46 publicly indicted by the (ICC) since its inception in 2002, only two are currently in prison with six others having finished their sentences, raising questions over the efficacy of the court and its methods of enforcement.
If ICC investigators find evidence of atrocities carried out by Omurbekov’s men, the prosecutor will ask ICC judges to issue arrest warrants to bring individuals to trial in The Hague.
However, the court does not have its own police and relies on states to arrest suspects.
Russia is not a member of the court, and it is safe to say that Putin would refuse to extradite anyone named in an ICC prosecution.
Therefore, Russian soldiers and commanders suspected of committing war crimes who are named in an ICC investigation would only be arrested if they were to travel to another country.
An Ukrainian serviceman inspects the leftovers of Russian military vehicles in the town of Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, after the Ukrainian army secured the area following the withdrawal of the Russian army from the Kyiv region on previous days, Bucha, Ukraine, April 8, 2022
The hand of Iryna Filkina, a woman who according to residents was killed by Russian army soldiers, is pictured as her body lies on the street, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Bucha, Kyiv region, Ukraine April 2, 2022
Investigators begin the grim work of pulling bodies from a mass grave and assessing evidence of war crimes as families gather searching for missing loved ones in Bucha, Ukraine on April 8, 2022
Wayne Jordash QC, a human rights lawyer at Doughty Street Chambers, told The Times: ‘The rules of war are an encouragement to better behaviour. Yet they’re only as good as the enforcement that follows or doesn’t follow. They are important but often sadly ignored.’
The Kremlin continues to deny the accusations of war crimes levied against its troops, while Russian political commentators have gone as far as to suggest the harrowing scenes were staged by Ukraine and the West to discredit Putin.
Meanwhile, the brigade accused of the war crimes in Bucha is already believed to have redeployed in preparation of a major Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine.
Intelligence cited by Ukraine’s MoD earlier this week said the 64th Motorized Rifle Brigade was travelling to the western Russian town of Belgorod, and would redeploy into eastern Ukraine today.
The intelligence report even claimed the brigade was being sent to the ‘hottest spots of the conflict’, likely around Kharkiv, in the hope that they will be killed to avoid the possibility of the soldiers being forced to testify in any future war crime tribunals.
‘Another goal of the rapid return of the 64th Brigade to Ukrainian territory is the quick ‘disposal’ of unnecessary witnesses,’ the report read.
‘That is, redeployment to a part of the war front where they will have no chance of surviving, thus making it impossible for them to testify in future courts.’
Zelensky shocked the UN into silence earlier this week after accusing Russia of committing ‘genocide’ in Ukraine, comparing Moscow’s military to the Islamic State terror group and demanding that Putin be brought to justice for his alleged atrocities in a video address to the Security Council.
Volodymyr Zelensky said atrocities have been carried out in Ukraine, with women raped and killed in front of their families
‘They cut off limbs, cut their throats. Women were raped and killed in front of their children. Their tongues were pulled out only because their aggressor did not hear what they wanted to hear from them,’ he said.
‘Anyone who has given criminal orders and carried them out by killing our people will be brought before the tribunal which should be similar to the Nuremberg tribunals.’
Making his first appearance before the UN’s highest body, Zelensky said the Russian troops are no different from other terrorists. He showed the council brief video footage of bloody corpses that ended with the words ‘Stop Russian Aggression’.
He stressed that Bucha was only one place and there are more with similar horrors, and called for a tribunal similar to the one set up at Nuremberg to try war criminals after the Second World War.
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