Ukraine’s prosecutor is investigating Russian killings of civilians in Bakhmut
(Reuters) – Russian Grad rockets and barrel artillery struck a residential neighborhood in the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut on Thursday, killing three men and two women and injuring nine others, Ukraine’s prosecutor general said, adding that it was being investigated as a war crime.
“Five dead and nine wounded in invader shelling of Bakhmut,” read a caption below blurry images of the victims shared by the Attorney General’s Office on Telegram. “A criminal case has been initiated.”
An investigation revealed that Russia fired barrel artillery and Grad rockets at Bakhmut on Feb. 16, the bureau said. “Occupyers’ grenades hit another residential area of the city.”
There was no immediate word from Moscow about the claim that civilians were killed, and Reuters could not independently confirm the battlefield report.
Russia says it is trying to avoid harming civilians. A current focus of their forces is Bakhmut in Donetsk, one of two regions that make up the Donbas, the industrial heartland of the country now partially occupied by Russia.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said the deaths showed it was imperative that any remaining civilians in Bakhmut leave the city of once 70,000 people. Staying in place, she said, put her at risk and created difficulties for soldiers and rescue workers.
“To be honest, I’m very surprised what 6,000 civilians are still doing there,” Vereshchuk wrote on Telegram. “I now appeal to the civilian population in Bakhmut – if you are practical, law-abiding and patriotic citizens, you must evacuate immediately.”
The Prosecutor General’s Office said the regional office in Donetsk conducts court investigations and criminal proceedings under the section of Ukraine’s Criminal Code covering violations of the laws and customs of war.
Germany’s Attorney General Peter Frank said in a newspaper interview on February 4 that the conflict in Ukraine required an international trial and that his country had started collecting evidence of war crimes in March. The evidence is in the “three-digit range,” he told the world on Sunday.
Ukraine wants a special tribunal to indict Russian military and political leaders whom they hold responsible for the war. The International Criminal Court has opened its own investigation into alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes, but has no jurisdiction to prosecute aggression in Ukraine.
(Reporting by Elaine Monaghan; Editing by Daniel Wallis)