‘Pure brutality’: Ukraine finds half-burned civilians in mass graves shot in ‘back of their heads’

‘We found half-burned bodies as if somebody tried to hide the crimes, but didn’t have enough time to do it’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Sunday 03 April 2022 11:48
Comments
Thick plumes of smoke seen in aftermath of Odesa missile strikes

Mass graves with civilians tied up and “bullet holes at the back of their heads” have been found in areas where Russian troops are pulling back, the Ukraine government says.

The spokesman for the invaded country’s president revealed the full horror uncovered as Vladimir Putin’s forces abandon attempts to conquer Kyiv, in nearby cities such as Bucha.

“These images really are heartbreaking,” said Sergey Nikiforov, the spokesman for Volodymyr Zelensky, condemning the “pure brutality” laid bare.

“We found mass graves filled with civilians. We found people with their hands and with their legs tied up and with bullet holes at the back of their heads.

“They were clearly civilians and they were executed. We found half-burned bodies as if somebody tried to hide the crimes, but actually they didn’t have enough time to do it properly.”

Mr Nikiforov added: “What struck me the most is the dead person next to a bicycle and clearly you’re not riding a bicycle into to attack, you know, Russian troops.

“So it’s just very hard to understand why is this happening, this pure brutality? There is no military necessity to do all this.”

Asked if they are “war crimes”, the spokesman replied: “I have to be very careful with my words, but it looks exactly like war crimes.”

The comments came as Ukrainian troops entering Bucha, a city 15 miles north west of the capital, found at least 20 dead men were lying in the street, the BBC reported.

The city’s mayor said they had buried 280 people in mass graves – while some of the few civilians who stayed and who survived enjoyed their “first bread in 38 days”.

The organisation Human Rights Watch said it has documented several cases of “laws-of-war violations” against civilians in occupied areas of the Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Kyiv.

“The cases we documented amount to unspeakable, deliberate cruelty and violence against Ukrainian civilians,” said Hugh Williamson, its Europe and Central Asia director.

Melinda Simmons, the UK’s ambassador to Ukraine, condemned Russia for using rape as “a weapon of war’, after other reports of the brutalities carried out.

It was clearly part of Russia’s “arsenal” she said, tweeting: “Women raped in front of their kids, girls in front of their families, as a deliberate act of subjugation. Rape is a war crime.”

Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, said the government would “not rest” until those responsible for “atrocities” in Ukraine have faced justice.

“The UK will fully support any investigations by the International Criminal Court, in its role as the primary institution with the mandate to investigate and prosecute war crimes,” she said.

“We will not rest until those responsible for atrocities, including military commanders and individuals in the Putin regime, have faced justice.”

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