Russian Troops Torturing Multiple Ukrainian Civilians: Reports

Ukraine has made further accusations of Russian forces torturing and killing civilians as Moscow continues to insist it is not targeting non-combatants.

In the latest incidents, the bodies of a woman aged 41, and a man aged 43, were found on Monday in the Kyiv-region village of Motyzhyn, 30 miles west of the capital, Internal Affairs Minister Anton Gerashchenko said in a Telegram post.

Gerashchenko said they were among a group of six bodies discovered, which included those of mayor Olha Sukhenko and her husband and son, who had been taken by Russian troops on March 25. Local residents said the mayor and her husband had refused to collaborate with the Russian forces.

The dead were "tortured and brutally killed," he wrote.

On Tuesday, Sumy Regional Governor Dmytro Zhyvytsky said that the Ukrainian military had discovered the bodies of at least three tortured civilians in the Konotop district in places where Russian forces had been stationed. Russia withdrew from Sumy on Sunday.

Meanwhile, images showing dead bodies in the town of Bucha outside the capital have been described by Ukrainian officials as signs of a "deliberate massacre." Journalists said they saw bodies in civilian clothes that appeared to be killed at close range.

The Ukrainian general prosecutor's office said that the bodies of five men with their hands tied had been found in a torture chamber in the basement of a "children's sanatorium in Bucha.

Bucha had been under Russian military control for weeks. Since the town was retaken, the bodies of hundreds of civilians have been found.

The Kremlin denied any accusations related to the murder of civilians in Bucha and said that images of bodies were "yet another provocation" from Kyiv. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the information "should be seriously doubted" and that "the facts, the chronology of events also doesn't speak in favor of the credibility of these claims.

However, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has gathered evidence of alleged war crimes in Bucha and other cities and towns under the control of Russian forces, apparently showing how civilians have been targeted and tortured.

In its report released Sunday, HRW detailed a March 4 incident in which Russian soldiers forced five men to kneel on the side of the road with their t-shirts over their head and shot one of the men in the back of the head.

Meanwhile, Russian forces in the village of Staryi Bykiv, in the northern Chernihiv region, rounded up at least six men on February 27, and later executed them, the mother of one of the men told HRW. In addition, a woman told HRW that a Russian soldier had repeatedly raped her in a school in the Kharkiv region where she had been sheltering with her family on March 13.

International humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions of 1949, prohibits willful killing, rape and other sexual violence, torture, and inhumane treatment of captured combatants and civilians in custody.

It comes amid growing evidence and international outrage at the toll that civilians are paying since the war started on February 24 after Russian forces retreated from the Kyiv region.

Ukraine's deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a video message posted on her Telegram account on Sunday that 11 other local community leaders had been kidnapped in the regions of Kyiv, Kherson, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv and Donetsk.

The prosecutor general's office also said on Tuesday that at least 165 children have been killed and at least 266 children injured. This figure does not include children's casualties in front-line areas such as Mariupol in Donetsk Oblast, as well as Kyiv, Chernihiv and Luhansk regions.

Along with the stories of individual tragedies is the widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure.

Last month, the U.S. said it had "clear evidence" Russian forces had "deliberately and intentionally targeted" civilian infrastructure, which included hospitals and places of shelter.

On Sunday, seven people died and 34 were wounded when a residential area in Kharkiv was struck, local prosecutors said. Administrative and residential buildings in the eastern city have suffered serious damage since the start of the war.

At least 70 percent of Chernihiv has been destroyed by Russian forces, the city's mayor Vladyslav Atroshenko said on Sunday.

In the besieged southern city of Mariupol, where the Red Cross is trying to evacuate residents, around 90 percent of the buildings are estimated to have been destroyed. This includes an infamous strike on the theater in which local officials say at least 300 people were killed.

Since the start of the invasion, Moscow has repeatedly insisted that it only targets military infrastructure. Newsweek has contacted the Russian defense ministry for comment.

Bucha, Ukraine
Destroyed Russian military vehicles are seen on the street on April 4, 2022 in Bucha, Ukraine. Ukraine has said that Russian troops targeted civilians in the city. Alexey Furman/Getty Images