The Russian soldiers who in March terrorised a street in Bucha, leaving dozens of civillians dead, have been clearly identified after an eight-month investigation. The massacre in Bucha, a city just outside of Kyiv, was part of a deliberate and systematic effort to violently clear a route towards the capital, the investigation concluded. One international lawyer told Express.co.uk the evidence was “really quite extraordinary” and “points to culpability for specific individuals including specific commanders”.
As part of the investigation, journalists from the New York Times collected CCTV footage, government records and interviewed residents in Bucha to create a clear picture of what happened there.
One of the most shocking discoveries was that soldiers were often using the phones of their dead victims to call their homes in Russia, only hours after the killings.
Back in April, the world looked at the devastation left in Bucha in horror as pictures of corpses with their arms tied up circulated the internet. Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin described it as a “provocation” by Ukraine.
The investigation discovered that the Russians responsible specifically belonged to the 234th Air Assault regiment, led by Lt. Col. Artyom Gorodilov.
The evidence which connected Gorodilov to the incident includes phone records and call signs used by the leadership, which were picked up on Russian radio channels, as well as thousands of hours of video footage.
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Researchers also dug through a database of all the calls and messages placed around Bucha during March. They then spoke to the relatives of the massacred civillians and asked for the victims’ phone numbers and checked the numbers against the database.
As a result, they were able to spot that some of the numbers were being used by Russians to phone home after the victims had been killed.
James Goldston, the executive director of the Open Society Juistice Initiative and a former coordinator of prosecutions in the prosecutor’s office at the International Criminal Court told Express.co.uk: “I mean it’s really quite extraordinary what has been assembled about a horrific set of crimes by individuals.
“We’ve seen for months investigators have been combing crime scenes around Ukraine for evidence. This is really an extraordinary assemblage of very powerful evidence that points to culpability for specific individuals including specific commanders.”
Other evidence that tied the Russian paratroopers to the massacre was security camera footage around Yablunska street, where many of the executions occurred.
In the footage, radio chatter made it clear that Lt. Col. Gorodilov was in command.
Two soldiers from the 234th even admitted in interviews that Gorodilov was in the area leading troops.
After the Russians were pushed back from the Kyiv Oblast region, Lt. Col. Gorodilov received a promotion to colonel.
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According to Mr Goldston, Gorodilov and others in charge of the paratroopers including Major General Surgey Chubarykin and General Serduyukov, and even Putin should be held accountable for the actions of the 234th.
He explained: “Under international, humanitarian law commanders can be just as accountable even if they haven’t pulled a gun or launched a piece of artillery themselves.
“If they are aware of or should or have a reason to know crimes are being committed by those who report to them and do nothing to stop it, they can be held culpable under international law.”
“All the crimes, those in Bucha and so many others that are being uncovered, done by Russian perpetrators, have happened in the aftermath of the initial crime of aggression for which Russia’s leadership must be held to account.
“We are working very hard to see that happen.”
Mr Goldston added: “We know that the international court is investigating crimes in Ukraine. We know that the national prosecutor of Ukraine is investigating and I would be very surprised if those prosecutors were not very interested in this material, and were not using it with other evidence they’re gathering to build cases for culpability for specific perpetrators.”
Currently neither General Serdyukov, commander of the Russian Airborne Troops, Gorodilov or Chubarykin – Gorodilov’s senior – have publicly said they will investigate any of the war crimes in Bucha.
The New York Times contacted The Russian Ministry of Defence, the Russian Embassy in Washington and Colonel Gorodilov about their investigation. None of them responded to the request for comment.