Human Rights Watch has documented numerous cases of Russian military forces committing war crimes in the occupied Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Kyiv regions of Ukraine.
Between February 27 and March 14, 2022, Human Rights Watch learned of "unspeakable" acts of violence against Ukrainian civilians in Russian forces’ custody including repeated rape, summary execution, unlawful violence and threats. Russian soldiers were also involved in the looting of civilian property such as food, clothing, and firewood.
“Russia has an international legal obligation to impartially investigate alleged war crimes by its soldiers [...] Commanders should recognize that a failure to take action against murder and rape may make them personally responsible for war crimes as a matter of command responsibility,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
Human Rights Watch substantiated the report through interviews with multiple witnesses, victims, and locals residing in Russia-occupied territories.
One woman recounted being repeatedly raped by a Russian soldier in a school in the Kharkiv region. The woman and her family had been using the school as a shelter on March 13 when the attack occurred. Photographs, shared with Human Rights Watch, show facial injuries inflicted by the soldier as he beat her and cut her face, neck, and hair with a knife.
In the village of Staryi Bkiv, Russian soldiers executed at least six men on February 27. The mother of one of the men was witness to the dead bodies of all six.
Human Rights Watch also heard accounts of Russian forces fatally shooting a woman and a 14-year–old child on March 6 in the village of Vorzel. The soldiers threw a smoke grenade into a basement, and shot the woman and child as they emerged from the shelter.
All parties to the Russia-Ukraine war are accountable to international humanitarian law and the laws of war, including the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, and customary international law, reiterated the international human rights organisation.
Russia has denied claims that it has killed or harmed civilians.
"We don't target civilian facilities to save as many civilians as possible. That is why our advance is not that rapid as many expected [...] We are not acting like the Americans and their allies were acting in Iraq when they wiped out entire cities," said Vasily Nebenzya, Russia's ambassador to the U.N. at a Security Council session on Tuesday.
Read the detailed findings here.