Captured on camera, followed by phone: The Russian military unit that killed dozens in Bucha

Captured on camera, followed by phone: The Russian military unit that killed dozens in Bucha

#Captured #camera #phone #Russian #military #unit #killed #dozens #Bucha Welcome to InNewCL, here is the new story we have for you today:

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This investigation was reported and produced by Yousur Al-Hlou, Masha Froliak, Dmitriy Khavin, Christoph Koettl, Haley Willis, Alexander Cardia, Natalie Reneau and Malachy Browne.

When videos and photos emerged showing the bodies of dozens of civilians scattered along a street in Bucha in April, Ukrainians and the rest of the world expressed horror and outrage. But in Russia officials reacted very differently: denial.

President Vladimir V. Putin dismissed the gruesome scene as a “provocation” and claimed that the Russian army had nothing to do with it.

But an eight-month visual investigation by InNewCL concluded that the perpetrators of the massacre along Jablunska Street were Russian paratroopers from the 234th Air Assault Regiment, led by Lt. Col. Artyom Gorodilov.

The evidence shows the killings were part of a premeditated and systematic effort to ruthlessly secure a route into the capital, Kyiv. Soldiers interrogated and executed unarmed men of military age and killed people who unknowingly crossed their paths – whether they were children fleeing with their families, locals hoping for food, or people simply trying to return home on their bikes.

We identified 36 of the Ukrainian victims killed along Jablunska Street. Read more about her final moments.

Times reporters spent months in Bucha after Russian forces withdrew, interviewing residents, amassing vast troves of surveillance camera footage and obtaining exclusive footage from government sources. In New York, Times investigators analyzed the footage and reconstructed, down to the minute, the murders along that one street. Some of the most damning evidence implicating the 234th was telephone records and decoded callsigns used by commanders on Russian radio channels.

Everything points to a brazen and bloody campaign that turned a quiet suburban street into what residents now call “Death Street.”

In the past, journalists and investigators have relied on a single photograph or video to uncover the atrocities of war. In 1992, Time Magazine published a photo of an emaciated prisoner in Bosnia on its cover. Almost 20 years later, video captured the execution of captured Tamil Tiger fighters in the final days of Sri Lanka’s civil war.

What sets the evidence uncovered in Bucha apart is the extent and detail linking a single unit and its commander to specific killings, with possible implications for ongoing investigations. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is already investigating possible war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine.

“This kind of digital evidence is a sea change, especially compared to previous investigations like in the former Yugoslavia,” said Matthew Gillett, a lecturer at the University of Essex who has previously worked at international criminal courts. “When cases in Ukraine end up in an international court like the ICC, there has to be a significant video component.”

Here are some of the key findings of the research.

While various military units were present in Bucha – and the city-wide death toll reached over 400 – The Times identified the 234th. Airborne units like these are among the best trained and equipped in the Russian military. Evidence of the 234th’s involvement includes military equipment, uniform insignia, radio calls and packing slips on ammo boxes. Military experts from Janes and the Institute for the Study of War provided insights into Russian armored vehicles and their markings, as well as tactical operations seen in the visual evidence.

Bucha residents said they often confiscated their phones when Russian soldiers interrogated them. Suspecting that the soldiers may have also stolen the victims’ phones, our reporters received from the Ukrainian authorities a database of all calls and messages sent to Russia from the Bucha region in March. When we interviewed the victims’ families, we collected their phone numbers and checked that they were in the database. A chilling pattern emerged: Soldiers routinely used victims’ phones to call homes in Russia, often just hours after they were killed.

By analyzing phone numbers dialed by Russian soldiers and uncovering social media profiles of their family members, The Times confirmed the identities of two dozen paratroopers as members of the 234th regiment. In many cases we interviewed their relatives and spoke to some of the soldiers themselves, two of whom confirmed that they were in the 234th and were serving in Bucha. We matched our findings with personally identifiable information from both leaked and official Russian databases provided by the Center for Advanced Defense Studies, a nonprofit group in Washington, DC focused on global security.

The Times identified – for the first time – three dozen people killed along Jablunska Street in March. We checked the death certificates of most of these victims and the predominant cause of death was gunshot wounds.

The victims were residents of Bucha or neighboring towns, of all ages and professions. Among the victims killed by Russian paratroopers on March 5 were 52-year-old Tamila Mishchenko and her 14-year-old daughter Anna. They were among four women who fled Bucha when Russian soldiers fired on their blue minivan.

Almost all of the victims we identified on Jablunska Street were civilians or Ukrainian prisoners of war. Their killing could be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court and considered war crimes under international humanitarian law. Because of their systematic and widespread nature, the Bucha killings could also constitute crimes against humanity. Russia has not joined the International Criminal Court and is unlikely to cooperate in possible future cases involving Russian soldiers.

The victims on Yablunska Street did not die in the crossfire between Russian and Ukrainian forces, nor were they accidentally shot in the fog of war. Our investigation shows that Russian troops killed them on purpose, apparently as part of a systematic “cleansing” operation to secure the route to the capital. Dozens of civilians were shot. In other cases, men suspected of having links with the Ukrainian military have been arrested and executed.

Lieutenant Colonel Artyom Gorodilov, the regimental commander at the head of the 234th, oversaw the operations of the paratrooper unit in Bucha. Times investigators obtained documents confirming the call sign he used when communicating by radio with his troops. Surveillance cameras along Jablunska Street picked up part of this radio conversation and found that Lieutenant Colonel Gorodilov was in command, and two soldiers from the 234th serving in Bucha confirmed in interviews that he was there.

In April, after Russian troops withdrew from the Kyiv region, Lieutenant Colonel Gorodilov was promoted to colonel by then-Chief of the Airborne Forces, Colonel-General Andrei Serdyukov. The ceremony took place days after the shocking images emerged from Bucha.

Neither General Serdyukov nor Colonel Gorodilov’s immediate superior at the time, Major General Sergey Chubarykin, publicly announced an investigation into the slaughter in the city, despite the worldwide outrage over the images. As superior officers, they are ultimately responsible for the actions of the armed forces under their command. By neither stopping nor investigating the atrocities in Bucha, they were ultimately able to bear responsibility.

The Russian Defense Ministry, the Russian Embassy in Washington and Colonel Gorodilov did not respond to requests for comment.

Reporting was provided by Evan Hill, Ishaan Jhaveri and Julian Barnes. Translations and research by Aleksandra Koroleva, Oksana Nesterenko and Milana Mazaeva.

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