Russian troops hold babies hostage and executed boy in playground, finds Human Rights Watch

Russian forces shot dead a 14-year-old boy playing soccer and two teenage brothers out for a walk after taking control of villages in the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions in the first weeks of the war, a new investigation shows.

The teens were just some of the victims of what Human Rights Watch described as a “disgusting, unlawful and cruel” campaign by Russia against civilians from late February to March. After interviewing dozens of survivors, the human rights group on Tuesday revealed new “apparent war crimes” that it says must be investigated immediately.

Survivors from the village of Yahidne recalled Russian soldiers who held more than 350 residents hostage for 28 days in a school basement in conditions so appalling that many of the survivors were still imprisoned in mid-April because of the conditions they had developed during their time were hospitalized in captivity.

Seventy of those trapped in the basement were children, including five babies, survivors said.

“After a week everyone was coughing violently. Almost all the children had high fevers, coughing fits and vomited,” a survivor was quoted as saying, noting that the detainees were deprived of food for the first few days.

Ten of the older hostages are said to have died during their weeks of captivity.

In other cases, survivors recalled Russian troops looking for an excuse to kill villagers and then executing them even when they found none.

Anastasia Andriivna, 66, an Andriivka survivor, told Human Rights Watch that her 45-year-old son was murdered after Russian forces found a military overcoat from his days in the National Guard in 1993.

She found his body in a barn after Russian forces withdrew. “He was lying there in a fetal position with his hands tucked under his head and his jacket draped over his shoulders. He was shot in the ear, his face was covered in blood,” she was quoted as saying.

In the village of Mokhnatyn in the Chernihiv region, a passing Russian convoy gunned down two 17-year-old twin brothers, Yevhen and Bohdan Samodiy, along with their 18-year-old friend Valentin Yakimchuk, according to the report.

In the village of Nova Basan, 14-year-old Dmytro Solovei was kicking a soccer ball in a playground when Russian forces shot him dead. His older brother was then shot while trying to recover his sibling’s body.

Perhaps most troubling, Russian troops appeared to have orders to carry out arbitrary executions. One survivor, a resident of Novyi Bykiv, told investigators Russian soldiers holding him and several others hostage said they had orders to kill eight detainees and were asking for “volunteers.”

When no one answered, they randomly selected eight men.

Human Rights Watch also documented enforced disappearances and torture. The Kremlin has repeatedly claimed its troops only target military locations and avoid aggression against civilians, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The International Criminal Court earlier this week sent its largest investigative team to Ukraine to investigate hundreds of alleged war crimes cases. Russian troops hold babies hostage and executed boy in playground, finds Human Rights Watch


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