U.N. experts decry war crimes by Russia in Ukraine and look into genocide allegations

People walk on a roadway, holding candles.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, center, walks in March with other leaders to commemorate the anniversary of the liberation of the town of Bucha from Russian troops. Rights groups and investigators say Bucha was the scene of systematic torture and killings of Ukrainian civilians.
(Associated Press)
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Independent U.N.-backed human rights experts said Monday they have turned up continued evidence of war crimes committed by Russian forces in their war against Ukraine, including torture — some of it with such “brutality” that it led to death — and the rapes of women up to 83 years old.

Members of the U.N. Independent Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine also expressed concerns about allegations of genocide by Russian forces, and said they’re looking into them. The team said its evidence showed crimes committed on both sides, but vastly more — and a wider array — of abuses were committed by Russian forces than by Ukrainian troops.

The commission delivered its latest findings in an oral update to the Human Rights Council, laying out its observations about unlawful attacks with explosive weapons, sexual and gender-based violence, and other crimes in the war, which entered its 20th month on Sunday.


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“The commission is concerned by the continued evidence of war crimes committed by the Russian armed forces in Ukraine during its first mandate,” commission Chair Erik Mose told the council, which created his investigative team in March last year, just days after Russian forces invaded. The panel is now working under a second mandate.

The main targets of torture were people accused of being informants for Ukrainian forces, and the mistreatment at times involved use of electric shocks, it found.

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“In some cases, torture was inflicted with such brutality that it caused the death of the victims,” Mose said.

The commission, in its report, said Russian soldiers in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region “raped and committed sexual violence against women of ages ranging from 19 to 83 years,” and often “family members were kept in an adjacent room hence being forced to hear the violations taking place.”

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No representative of Russia was present in the vast hall of the U.N. office in Geneva where the council was meeting to hear Mose’s comments.

Last year, the U.N. General Assembly in New York stripped Russia of its seat in the 47-member-country body to show its opposition to President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine.


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Speaking to reporters, the experts said they have received no feedback from the Russian side, whereas there was “considerable cooperation” from the Ukrainian side, Mose said.

Commission member Pablo de Greiff told reporters that their work would be improved if they were given better access to information from the Russian side.

“We want to exercise our impartiality in the most thorough way,” De Greiff said.

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