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UN: Russian forces killed hundreds of civilians early in Ukraine war

Russian forces have killed at least 441 civilians in the early
days of Moscow’s incursion into Ukraine, the United Nations human
rights office said, documenting attacks in dozens
of towns and summary executions that it said might be war

The actual number of victims in the Kiev, Chernihiv and Sumy
regions was likely to be much higher, the Office of the High
Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said in a report on Wednesday looking
into the war’s start on February 24 until early April, when
Russian forces withdrew from the three areas.

“The acts in question were committed by Russian armed forces
in control of these areas and led to the deaths of 441 civilians
(341 men, 72 women, 20 boys and 8 girls),” the report said.

“There are strong indications that the summary executions
documented in the report constitute the war crime of wilful
killing,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk
said in a statement.

Through the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission
in Ukraine (HRMMU), OHCHR gathered evidence from 102 towns and

The Russian foreign and defence ministries did not
immediately respond to requests for comment.

READ MORE: About 13000 Ukraine soldiers killed in war with Russia

Documented rights violations

Moscow has repeatedly denied targeting civilians in what it calls a “special military operation” to disarm its neighbour and remove dangerous nationalists from power. Ukraine and its Western allies call the attack an unprovoked land grab.

Overall in the war through December 4, the OHCHR said it had counted 6,702 civilian deaths, and that its monitoring includes violations by all parties.

The scope of the new report was limited to the Russian-controlled areas during the first days of the fighting because of “the prevalence of allegations of killings of civilians in these three regions”, and OHCHR’s ability to verify and document deaths thereafter Russian forces pulled out.

A UN commission concluded in October that Russian forces
were responsible for the vast majority of rights violations in
the early days of the war.

Many of the bodies documented in the new report bore signs
that the victims might have been intentionally killed, the
report found.

As of the end of October, OHCHR was still trying
to corroborate an additional 198 alleged killings of civilians
in the three regions at the time.

Some areas took the brunt of the killings, the report found,
such as the town of Bucha near the capital Kiev, which was under the control of Russian troops from March 5 until March 30.

OHCHR said it had documented the killings of 73 civilians in
Bucha and was in the process of corroborating another 105 cases.

READ MORE: Multiple fatalities after attack on civilian convoy in south Ukraine

Summary executions

A stated objective of the report is to help victims by
documenting the casualties and trying to bring perpetrators to
justice. It analysed 100 of the killings in detail.

It classified 57 of those as summary executions, 30 of which
were of people in detention, while 27 were victims executed on
the spot.

In the other 43 cases, civilians were killed while moving
within or between settlements on foot or by bicycle, car or van.

“Most victims were targeted while commuting to work,
delivering food to others, visiting neighbours or relatives, or
while attempting to flee the hostilities,” it said.

READ MORE: Russian shelling leaves over a dozen dead in Ukraine’s Kharkiv

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