Russian War Crimes in Ukraine: The Bucha Massacre

By Ana Perez, 9th Grade

The Bucha Massacre was a series of Russian war crimes committed by the Russian Armed Forces in the city of Bucha in the region of Kyiv Oblast which involved the killing of civilians. Evidence of the massacre first came out on April 1st after the Russian forces withdrew from the city. The mayor of Bucha, Anatoliy Fedoruk, announced that the Russian forces had executed at least 410 civilians. And of course, Russia is denying these war crimes. But Dale I. (2022) stated that “the world cannot be tricked anymore.”

The massacre began with the Russian attacks in Bucha and lasted 33 days. Oleh Matsenko, a survivor of the massacre, explained that he was too scared to flee and had to stay in his house without water, food, or electricity. Some of his neighbors had left their houses to find food but never returned. One day, he made it to the market in order to find some food for himself and a few other friends and as he tried to survive Russian shelling, he saw mountains of dead bodies, mostly of civilians. “I saw it all, the piles of corpses in the streets, all dead. I saw it all, they are still lying there, not everyone was collected.” Some of the bodies were shot in the chest with their hands bound by white cloth, a clear sign that they were executed by the Russian forces. “They shot anyone who resisted their presence, interrogations and looting – or simply looked suspicious.” Some of the bodies had traces of torture and some were found in mass graves covered with dirt and garbage. According to Article 7 and Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which is part of the United Nations, this classifies as a war crime. The article states that “Murder, ill treatment or deportation to slave labour or for any other purpose of the civilian population in occupied territory.”

The Russian Army has also used rape as a weapon of war as the evidence of sexual violence toward Ukrainian women grows every day. The atrocities include gang rape, assaults at gunpoint, and some rapes committed in front of children. Children were not spared from the brutality of the Russian forces, either, as many young girls have come forward. The President of La Strada Ukraine, an organization that supports survivors of sexual assault, stated that, “We have had several calls to our emergency hotline from women and girls seeking assistance, but in most cases it’s been impossible to help them physically. We haven’t been able to reach them because of the fighting. Rape is an underreported crime and stigmatised issue even in peaceful times. I am worried that what we learn about is just going to be the tip of the iceberg.” 

Even as more survivors flee Ukraine, the trauma will affect Ukraine for years to come. Kanster S. (2022) stated: “When a woman gets away it looks like she’s safe, she’s far away from the guns and the man who raped her. But the trauma is a bomb inside her, that follows her. The scale of what is happening now is heartbreaking.” Rape is not considered a war crime, but a crime against humanity, according to the United Nations, described as mass systemic rape and sexual enslavement in a time of war by the BBC.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the city of Bucha, where he described the event as a genocide. “You stand here today and see what happened. We know that thousands of people have been killed and tortured with extremities cut off, women raped, children killed. These are war crimes and it will be recognized by the world as genocide.” In an interview with CBS, he added that “this is genocide. This elimination of the whole nation and the people. We are citizens of Ukraine and we don’t want to be subdued to the policy of the Russian Federation. This is the reason we are being destroyed and exterminated.” He then went on to give a speech directed to Russia where he stated that “I want every mother of every Russian soldier to see the bodies of the dead in Bucha, Irpin, and Hostomel. What did they do? Why were they killed? What did the man who was riding their bicycle down the street do? Why were the ordinary civilians in an ordinary, peaceful city tortured to death? Why were women strangled after their earrings were ripped out of their ears? How could women be raped in front of their children? How could their bodies be desecrated even after death? What did the Ukrainian city of Bucha do to Russia? Russian mothers! Even if you raised looters, how did they also become butchers?”

Russia, however, has denied the allegations and has even claimed that the pictures have been fabricated by the Ukrainian government – something that would be believable if only two dead bodies have been found instead of hundreds. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that the gruesome pictures from Bucha were faked by the Ukrainian military as a “provocation.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed the reports as a “fake attack” and even called for an urgent meeting on the situation since he saw the allegations as a threat to international peace and security. 

But history has made the Russian forces’ counterclaims hard to believe since Russia has a long history of war crimes, from the days of the Russian Empire to the present day. The most recent example outside of Ukraine is Georgia. The ECHR Russia is guilty of murder, torture, looting, and destruction of homes in Georgia, as well as preventing the return of 20,000 displaced Georgians to their territory. This is exactly what they are doing today, but many hope that Russia will finally face consequences for its actions. 

The United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the United States have condemned Vladimir Putin and the Russian Armed Forces for their actions, even promising action from the International Criminal Court, an international tribunal belonging to the United Nations. President Zelensky has established a new prosecutor’s office to investigate the Russian war crimes to prepare for an international tribunal after the war is over. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on April 4th that the European Union will send researchers and investigators to Ukraine in order to help Iryna Venediktova, the local prosecutor in Bucha, to compile the evidence of the war crimes.

President Joe Biden adds that the American government will continue to look for evidence in order to properly condemn Putin, who he has called a “war criminal” in the past. “We have to continue to provide Ukraine with the weapons they need to continue the fight. And we have to gather all the details so this can be an actual — have a war crimes trial.” He also added that “What’s happening in Bucha is outrageous and everyone sees it.” 

If the war crimes are investigated, the case will be handled by the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands, which is the only permanent international court with jurisdiction to prosecute international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The Russian officials will be tried in court, indicted, and will serve long-term prison sentences or be executed. Currently, Thomas Lubanga is serving 14-years for the war crime of enlisting child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Germain Katanga is serving a 12-year sentence on five counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity after his involvement in the massacre of Bogoro Village. However, the court’s prosecutors had not yet sought permission from judges to open a full-scale investigation. But it is likely they will in the near future.

As of now, the evidence against Russia is damning and the war crimes against the people of Ukraine will plague its residents for generations to come.


One thought on “Russian War Crimes in Ukraine: The Bucha Massacre

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s