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Germany has evidence of hundreds of war crimes in Ukraine

April 16, 2023

A German newspaper says investigators have received 337 leads relating to alleged war crimes by Russia's military over the past 14 months.

A cemetery worker takes a break from probing a mass grave in Bucha, Ukraine on April 10, 2022
The bodies of more than a thousand civilians were found in Bucha, a town near Kyiv, last year after Russian troops withdrew from the areaImage: Rodrigo Abd/AP Photo/picture alliance

Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) has received 337 tipoffs about possible war crimes in Ukraine, the Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported Sunday.

Citing government figures from February 2022 until mid-April, the newspaper said investigators had interviewed around 90 eyewitnesses about alleged atrocities committed by Russian soldiers during the war in Ukraine.

Two-thirds of those questioned were refugees from Ukraine who have since fled to Germany. Other sources were from German nationals in Ukraine.

The information was provided by the German Interior Ministry in response to a parliamentary question by center-right Christian Democrat (CDU) lawmaker Günter Krings.

Berlin provides forensics support to Kyiv

Welt am Sonntag said the BKA, which is Germany's equivalent of the FBI in the United States, has provided forensics support to Ukrainian investigators investing war crimes.

The newspaper cited the German government as saying that security authorities in Kyiv had received "goods, especially for securing evidence and documentation."

Berlin has also delivered "motor vehicles and other management and operational resources" with a total value of more than €11.5 million ($12.8 million).

Reacting to the figures, German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann told Welt am Sonntag that: "Anyone who, like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, instigates a bloody war should have to answer for it in court. Ideally, an indictment before the International Criminal Court would succeed."

This not only applies to Putin but also to others "who are responsible for the terrible crimes against international law on Ukrainian soil," he added.

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Germany, Ukraine, other countries investigate

Germany's Federal Public Prosecutor General Peter Frank initiated investigations within weeks of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February last year.

Frank is responsible for the prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity worldwide, which don't have to be related to Germany.

The prosecutor said at the time that their initial focus would be on the mass killings in Bucha, around 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the capital Kyiv.

Prosecutors in Kyiv say Russian forces killed some 1,400 civilians around Bucha, a town near the Ukrainian capital, where the bodies were discovered last year after the withdrawal of Russian troops.

Bucha has since become a symbol of the alleged war crimes carried out by Russia during its invasion.

Another part of the case revolves around the firing at civilian vehicles, by Russian soldiers, which in one case seriously injured a German national.

Russia accused of 'widespread abuses'

Since Russia's forces invaded in February last year, they have committed widespread abuses and alleged war crimes, according to the United Nations, rights groups and journalists.

Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russia of targeting apartment buildings and other civilian structures and equipment in its air strikes.

This week, a video showing the beheading of a Ukrainian prisoner of war by Russian fighters caused horror around the world.

The Kremlin questioned the authenticity of the recording, which has not yet been independently verified. But a former Russian mercenary claims to have identified earlier comrades as perpetrators.

International outrage over apparent beheading video

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin said investigators are probing some 77,000 cases of alleged Russian war crimes in the country.

"Courts have already handed down 30 verdicts," he said, according to the BNS news agency.

Kostin noted that 20 other countries also have their own national investigations into potential Russian war crimes in Ukraine.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague last month issued an arrest warrant for Putin over alleged war crimes.

Ukrainian troops have also been accused of abuses, and last year Kyiv said it would investigate a video circulating online that Moscow alleged showed Ukrainian forces killing Russian troops who may have been trying to surrender.

mm/jcg (dpa, EPD)