By Hannah Ritchie, CNN
Russian paratroopers executed at least eight Ukrainian men in the town of Bucha on March 4, in what appears to be a potential war crime, according to a New York Times investigation published Thursday.
Based on eye-witness testimonies and three videos obtained and analyzed by The Times, the investigation details the alleged execution of eight Ukrainian men by Russian paratroopers occupying Bucha in early March.
The timeline of the incident is established by two videos analyzed by the paper, which appear to capture Russian paratroopers leading a group of Ukrainian men at gunpoint to a Russian-held office building, where their bodies would later be found.
Several eyewitnesses The Times spoke with — including one of the men involved in the incident who was shot but managed to survive — allege an execution-style killing took place in the moments that followed.
A drone video filmed one day after the alleged incident appears to corroborate the events, as it shows two Russian soldiers guarding several dead bodies outside the same office building, according to the NYT analysis.
“I was shot and I fell down. The bullet went into my side,” said Ivan Skyba, whom the Times identifies as a 43-year-old builder.
“I fell down and I pretended to be dead,” he said.
“I didn’t move and didn’t breathe,” he told the Times.
The Times identified the soldiers involved as paratroopers based on an analysis of their equipment from CCTV footage captured in early March, when Russian forces still occupied Bucha, along with evidence left behind at the Russian-held office building where the shootings occurred.
Based on translated text messages, interviews with local authorities, family members and witnesses, The Times investigation identified eight of the men who were executed in the March 4 incident.
According to the investigation, all had joined local paramilitary groups in Bucha in the days before they were killed.
None of the videos in the report have been reviewed or verified by CNN, and the victims’ identities have not been corroborated.
Evidence of mass graves and civilian executions in the towns of Bucha and Borodianka has continued to emerge since early April, following the withdrawal of Russian forces from the Kyiv region.
Images of bodies lying strewn the streets of Bucha have sparked international condemnation and fueled calls for an investigation into potential Russian war crimes.
CNN visited the scene of mass graves in Bucha in April after Russian forces had withdrawn, revealing the horrors of their occupation to the world. Correspondent Fred Pleitgen was among the first to reach a mass grave that residents dug while the place was under Russian occupation, because so many residents had been killed and longer burial ceremonies would have been too dangerous amid the shooting and shelling.
During a visit to Bucha and Borodianka in mid-April, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Karim Khan said there were “reasonable grounds to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC” were being committed in both towns.
But Khan also warned that it would be “challenging” to guarantee justice would be served in Ukraine, given Russia’s decision to withdraw its signature from the ICC statute, which gives the court jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. Russia also doesn’t extradite its citizens to other countries.
The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the mass killings of civilians in Ukraine, while reiterating baseless claims that images of bodies on the streets of Bucha are “fake.” The New York Times reported that the Russian Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense did not respond to their request for comment. CNN has also contacted those ministries.
Khan addressed Russia’s claims of disinformation directly.
“Those bodies that are in those bags on the screen are not fake. I’ve seen them. I stood beside them. The issue is how did they die, who is responsible and in what circumstances?” Khan said, adding that the world was watching to see how “effective the rule of law” would be regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
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