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East Ukraine war crimes

October 20, 2014

Human rights organization Amnesty International has reported war crimes by both Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists during the conflict in Ukraine. Both sides are being urged to investigate.

Ostukraine Krise Separatisten 12.06.2014 in Snischne
Image: Reuters

In a report presented in Berlin and London on Monday, human rights organization Amnesty International accused both pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces of war crimes in eastern Ukraine.

The report, titled "Summary killing during the conflict in eastern Ukraine," points to evidence showing that both warring parties have been responsible for atrocities and illegal executions during the conflict.

Ukraine expert for Amnesty International Jovanka Worner said on Monday, however, that it was difficult to determine the extent of the crimes.

"Many of the shocking cases, particularly those published by the Russian media are greatly exaggerated," she said. "There's no convincing evidence of mass killings or graves."

Worner added, however, that in some cases, there have been executions which could be categorized as war crimes.

Mass graves

Following Russian media reports on September 23, of mass graves in the villages of Komunar and Nyzhnya Krynka (Donetsk area), which had previously been under Ukrainian militia control, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov later claimed that 400 bodies had been buried there.

Ostukraine Krise Zerstörung 15.10.2014 Donezk
The scale of damage on a street in DonetskImage: Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov

Three days later, an Amnesty International delegation went to the site and found, among other evidence, that in fact four men had been executed by Ukrainian militia. The bodies were later found in two graves near Komunar.

Isolated cases

"What we have seen are isolated cases of executions which, in some cases, may constitute war crimes," said John Dalhuisen Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia Director. "Such targeted killings were, however, detected on both sides. All suspected cases should be investigated and prosecuted those responsible on both sides," he added.

Amnesty International has now urged both sides to investigate the matter and explain the crimes.

Early in September, both sides agreed a ceasefire and a demilitarized zone for eastern Ukraine. Nevertheless, violence continued, especially around the airport Donetsk, with the truce being violated by both sides.

According to the United Nations, in the past seven weeks alone, more than 330 people have been killed in the conflict zone.

ksb/kms (Reuters, epd, kna)