A clear war crime has occurred. While retreating, Russian soldiers allegedly left thirteen dead civilians along a highway out of Kiev. The bodies were booby trapped with explosives.
Back in March, another video of Russian soldiers executing a couple was taken in the very same location.
As Western journalists advance towards Kyiv, more and more evidence of war crimes carried out by Russian soldiers has been uncovered.
Pictures from Irpin Friday showed soldiers carrying body bags down a ruined stretch of road. Now that Ukraine’s forces have pushed Russia out of the region, work has been able to begin to collect the dead. Only now is the true scale of the devastation in the city being realised.
According to Olena Halushka – a member of an anti-corruption group in Ukraine – some of the bodies were mined by Russian forces before they retreated, creating treacherous booby traps for the recovery workers.
The mayor of Irpin, a city recently reclaimed by Ukrainian troops, said this week that up to 300 civilians and 50 ‘defenders’ were killed during Russia’s occupation. Up to 50 percent of the city’s buildings and critical infrastructure was damaged, he added.
Irpin was home to around 60,000 residents before Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his attack on Ukraine on February 24. Mayor Oleksandr Markushyn said around 3,500 people had stayed in the city, and that officials are still looking for people in hidden in their basements.
He pleaded for the city’s residents not to return home yet, as it is still under fire from Russian artillery.
Nearby, an on-the-ground BBC investigation found 13 bodies strewn along a 200-yard stretch of the E-40 motorway that runs into Kyiv from the west – and about 5 miles south of Irpin. Two were of a young couple who were killed while trying to escape the capital down the highway.
Maksim Iowenko, his wife Ksjena and their six-year-old son were part of a 10-car convoy driving down the road when they came under fire from a Russian tank crew.
Harrowing footage from March 7 showed Maksim stopping the car and getting out with his hands up. Despite the obvious sign of surrender, the Russian troops – hidden in a tree-line along the side of the road – gunned him down in broad daylight. His wife was also killed in the attack.
The video, filmed by a drone operated by the Ukrainian military’s Bugatti drone unit – who were monitoring the position of the Russian crew at the time – showed his body slump to the floor.
His wife was also killed in the attack, while their son and an elderly woman – the mother of one of Maksim’s friend who was also in the car – survived. They were later released by the Russian troops, and were found walking back down the road.
According to the BBC, when the woman returned home she told her family that Maksim had been shouting that there was a child in the car when he was killed by the Russian soldiers.
The broadcaster’s correspondents found the car burnt-out and what they believe to be Maksim’s burnt remains, although the footage did not show that it was on fire during the attack. They theorised that the Russian soldiers torched the vehicle to destroy the evidence of the brutal slaughter.
The reporters also said they found other evidence of attempts to destroy bodies. While some were left to rot, others were placed under tyres, with charred clothing. Just two of the bodies found on the same stretch of road wore recognisable Ukrainian military uniforms, the BBC reported.
The slaughtering of civilians, particularly those who do not pose a threat, is considered a war crime under international humanitarian law.
The Bugatti unit has handed its footage over to Kyiv authorities as well as Britain’s Metropolitan Police, whose War Crimes unit is investigating the war in Ukraine in collaboration with the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The shocking killing of Maksim and Ksjena happened on a stretch of road between the towns of Mria and Myla (which translate to Dream and Sweetheart in English) that lie about seven miles south of Irpin.
Speaking on Wednesday, Irpin’s mayor Oleksandr Markushyn told reporters: ‘I think about 200 to 300 people have died unfortunately.
‘Fifty percent of the city is destroyed, including critical infrastructure,’ he added. While Irpin was ‘100 percent’ under Ukrainian control, it is ‘still dangerous’ and still being shelled by Russia, he added.
Ukraine said the commuter town was ‘liberated’ from Russian forces on Monday.
Markushyn said at least 50 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in the battle for the town, and around 100 wounded.
‘There are no Russian invaders in the city anymore,’ Markushyn said.
Irpin counted around 60,000 residents before Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his attack on Ukraine on February 24. The mayor said around 3,500 people had stayed on and that ‘we are still looking for people in basements.’
Addressing those who fled Irpin, he said: ‘Please don’t return. It is dangerous. I will tell you when we you can return. But in the next month, you won’t be able to return.’
He said Irpin is still being shelled by Russian forces from Bucha, another suburb of the capital Kyiv that is less than six miles away.
Russian forces shelled Irpin from the start of the war and it is considered as a key passage onto the Ukrainian capital. A US journalist was killed in the town earlier this month. It has since been closed to the media.
Since Vladimir Putin launched his attack on Ukraine on February 24, there have been frequent reports of suspected war crimes across the country.
Moscow has repeatedly denied that it is targeting, or even attacking, civilians and civilian areas. Evidence, including thousands of photographs and videos as well as eyewitness accounts, prove otherwise.
Russian forces have repeatedly attacked Ukrainian medical facilities, striking at hospitals, ambulances, medics, patients and even newborns. Among the most thoroughly documented strikes was the March 9 bombing of a children’s and maternity hospital in Mariupol.
In another attack in the southern port city on March 16, a Russian strike hit a theatre that was being used as a shelter by as many as 1,300 civilians.
Russian shelling has meant officials have not been able to get close enough to the theatre to assess full scale of the destruction, but as many as 300 people are believed to have been killed.
With every new attack, the public outcry for war crimes prosecutions against Russian President Vladimir Putin, his generals and top Kremlin advisers grows louder.
For a report released by Amnesty International on Friday, researches spoke to civilians in five Ukrainian cities in Ukraine that have come under siege – including Kharkiv and Mariupol.
Amnesty said that Russia’s siege warfare tactics are unlawfully killing civilians in numerous cities. Expert analysis by the group found evidence of the Russian military using cluster munitions and unguided ‘dumb’ bombs in densely-populated civilian areas.
The human rights group collected testimony documenting the medieval tactics – including unlawful indiscriminate attacks, disruption of basic utilities, cuts to communication, destruction of civilian infrastructure, and restrictions over access to medicine and healthcare.
In an attack on the morning of 4 March, Olesky Stovba, a 41-year-old father, was injured by a cluster munition while buying groceries in the city’s Mala-Danylivka district.
‘We found some food, and we stood outside the food shop and I heard a great sound,’ he told Amnesty. ‘I turned myself and I saw a lot of little fire. It was the height of my knees, 50 metres from me. I fell down, and my wife too, and I felt something hit my right leg … I pulled down my trousers and saw lots of blood.’
Surgeons removed three shrapnel fragments from his groin, calf and foot. Amnesty’s expert weapons analyst found the fragments were from either a 9N210 or 9N235 cluster munition.
President Joe Biden has said he believes Putin is a war criminal, and the U.S. government has assessed that members of Russia’s armed forces have committed war crimes.