The prosecutor for war crimes of the Kharkiv region stands with a coroner and a police officer at the site of a mass burial in a forest during the exhumation September 16, 2022 in Izium, Ukraine.
Yevhenii Zavhorodnii | Global Pictures Ukraine | News from Getty Images | Getty Images
Editor’s Note: The following article contains vivid photos of corpses and extremely vivid material with detailed accounts of executions, rapes and torture of people in Ukraine, including young children.
UNITED NATIONS – A report commissioned by the United Nations this month found that Russian forces in Ukraine have committed a series of war crimes, including summary executions, torture, rape and other acts of sexual violence against Ukrainian civilians .
The report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry into Ukraine details violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in four regions occupied by Russian forces. The commission largely focused its investigations on the Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy regions.
In preparing the report, the Commission conducted 191 interviews and traveled to 27 cities on five separate visits. In some cases, the commission found that Ukrainian forces committed war crimes against Russian troops, although these incidents were less frequent.
Moscow has repeatedly denied allegations that its forces have been deliberately targeting civilians since the full-scale invasion began in late February.
In one of the most disturbing examples of sexual violence, the commission describes an incident involving a 4-year-old girl:
In March 2022, two Russian soldiers broke into a house in the Kyiv region, repeatedly raped a 22-year-old woman, committed sexual violence against her husband and forced the couple to have sex in her presence.
Then one of the soldiers forced her four-year-old daughter to perform oral sex on him, which amounts to rape
The commission said the ages of victims of sexual assault ranged from 4 years to over 80 years.
“Perpetrators raped the women and girls in their homes or took them away and raped them in unoccupied homes,” the group wrote in the Oct. 18 report.
The group also wrote that spouses and family members, including children, were sometimes forced to witness crimes committed by Russian troops who “frequently appeared to be under the influence of alcohol.”
The commission described separate incidents in March involving both a middle-aged woman and an elderly woman in a village outside of Kyiv:
A 56-year-old woman told how two of the three Russian armed forces who broke into her home gang-raped her while the third looked on while she masturbated. They stole their food and money. A few weeks later, she learned that her husband had been tortured and executed in another incident.
An 83-year-old woman described how, while her village was occupied by Russian forces, she was raped by a Russian military man in her home, where her disabled husband was also present.
The commission wrote that some victims refused to be interviewed, while others considered suicide. A psychologist who spoke to the commission said that “all the victims I work with blame themselves for being discovered and raped by perpetrators.”
The report also documents that Russian forces unlawfully detained Ukrainian civilians in overcrowded makeshift facilities before conducting interrogations that included methods of torture:
The prison conditions were inhuman. According to victims, the room was so crowded that some were forced to stand or sleep on chairs for weeks. There was no light or ventilation, and the air was hot and stuffy.
Water dripped from the ceiling and walls, and there were no showers or toilets. There was very limited access to food and water and almost no access to medical care… The soldiers fired at random near the victims to frighten them.
A Ukrainian policeman examines a cell while the words of the Lord’s Prayer are written on the wall of the district police department used by Russian occupiers for torture, Balakliia, Kharkiv Region, north-eastern Ukraine.
Vyacheslav Madiyevskyy | Future Publishing | Getty Images
The report added that Russian soldiers called Ukrainian civilians “fascists” or “cattle” during interrogations.
Individuals were handcuffed, shackled, blindfolded and subjected to sustained beatings with rifle butts or batons. According to the commission, Russian forces also administered electric shocks with Tasers and carried out mock executions.
“Victims also described acts of prolonged forced nudity in front of others, which also amounted to sexual violence,” the report said.
A victim was severely beaten for two days after refusing to declare support for the Russian Federation on camera.
Another victim was forced to stand naked and shouted “Glory to Russia” while being beaten, describing the beating as “punishment for speaking Ukrainian” and “not remembering the lyrics of the Russian Federation’s anthem”.
The commission wrote that after initial detention in Ukraine, individuals were forcibly transferred to Belarus or Russia, in violation of international humanitarian law. Once civilians reached Russia, they were held in detention facilities known as filtration camps before being issued Russian identity cards. Moscow has denied these allegations.
The report also outlines incidents where victims “in civilian clothes, driving civilian cars and unarmed” were attacked and killed by Russian troops.
The left hand of an elderly man killed in a deadly Russian missile attack on a humanitarian convoy remains at the wheel of a car in Zaporizhia, southeast Ukraine.
Dmytro Smolienko | Ukrinform | Future Publishing | Getty Images
“Most incidents occurred during daylight hours, meaning the civilian appearance should have been clear to the attacker,” the commission wrote, adding that soldiers shot civilians with assault rifles or, in some cases, vehicle-mounted weapons.
The commission found that most of the summary executions took place in places where Russian forces had been stationed for a long time.
The bodies of some victims were found with their hands tied behind their backs, a clear indication that the victim was in custody and posed no threat at the time of death.
The commission’s investigations show that the causes of death of the victims corresponded to the methods used in executions: gunshot wounds to the head, blunt wounds or slit throats. In some cases, there were also signs of torture on the bodies, such as bruises, wounds, and broken bones.
Investigators carry away a body bag in a forest near Izyum in eastern Ukraine September 23, 2022, where Ukrainian investigators have uncovered more than 440 graves after the town was retaken by Russian forces, prompting new claims of war atrocities.
Sergei Bobok | AFP | Getty Images
The commission concluded in its report that during its investigations in the Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy regions it found that the Russian armed forces had committed a “series of war crimes, violations of human rights and international humanitarian law”.
The group wrote that they will expand their investigation to a broader geographic region in a future report.