Chief ICC prosecutor declares Ukraine a ‘crime scene’ after visiting Bucha to investigate Russia’s war

There are ’reasonable grounds’ to suggest Russia has committed war crimes in Ukraine, says Karim Khan QC

Rory Sullivan
Thursday 14 April 2022 13:15
Zelesnky describes atrocities committed by Russians in Bucha at UN Security Council

The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) chief prosecutor has declared Ukraine a “crime scene” and said there are “reasonable grounds” to believe war crimes have been committed, after hundreds of bodies were recovered in Bucha following the retreat of Russian troops.

Ukrainian authorities found mass graves in the Kyiv suburb earlier this month, leading to a global outcry and to accusations that Russia had perpetrated crimes against humanity. Moscow denies its soldiers have targeted civilians.

However, at least 403 people are believed to have been killed by Russian forces in Bucha, according to its mayor.

On a visit to the town on Wednesday, Karim Khan QC, the first Briton to lead the ICC, said there were “reasonable grounds” to suggest Russia has committed war crimes in Ukraine. An ICC forensic team is now working "so that we can really make sure we separate truth from fiction", he added.

"We have to pierce the fog of war to get to the truth. That requires independent, impartial investigation," Mr Khan said.

"We have to keep an open mind and we have to follow the evidence. The law needs to be mobilised and sent into battle to protect civilians."

Mr Khan and Ukraine’s prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova agreed to coordinate their investigations.

A team of French forensic specialists arrived in Bucha earlier this week to conduct their own investigation, with Paris saying their findings will be shared with the International Criminal Court.

Local priest Andriy Halavin welcomed their work, saying it would prove to the world that atrocities had been carried out in Bucha.

"They [the victims] didn’t just die from explosions, by chance, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but they were deliberately shot," Halavin said.

"Some were in cars, driving, and they were shot. Some were walking on the street and they were shot,” he added.

Mr Halavin said it is “very important” that the investigations are able to dispel Russian propaganda.

In a separate investigation - the first independent probe into allegations of Russian violations of humanitarian law in Ukraine - the Organisation for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe said on Wednesday that it had found evidence of multiple war crimes.

Earlier this week, Russian president Vladimir Putin claimed that images of dead bodies in Bucha were fake. However, satellite imagery appears to show corpses in the streets of Bucha during the Russian occupation of the town.

Responding to the alleged war crimes, Polish president Andrzej Duda accused Russia of “terrorism” on Wednesday.

Elsewhere, the US president Joe Biden and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau have described Russian actions in Ukraine as “genocide”.

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