Russia had a pre-hatched plan for its troops to torture, rape and execute civilians in Ukraine who refuse to capitulate, Ukraine’s top prosecutor has said.
Iryna Venediktova said, as a Ukrainian citizen, she understood why political leaders like US President Joe Biden have accused Vladimir Putin’s forces of committing genocide in her country, but as a prosecutor she said she must gather the evidence in areas like the besieged city of Mariupol.
“I will give you the evidence when I have access to this territory”, she told Sky News in an interview at her offices in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
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The prosecutor general revealed there are a “huge number of cases” of Russian troops killing Ukrainians simply because they did not like them.
Her team is working on almost 8,000 war crimes cases from around Ukraine, including summary executions, sexual violence and the forced deportation of children to Russia.
The number of cases grows daily as does the volume of evidence.
In the Kyiv region alone, where Russian forces occupied a number of towns and villages before withdrawing, the prosecutor general said her team had information on more than 1,000 civilians who were killed, though the total number could well be higher.
Many of the victims had been shot dead.
Asked whether she thought the shooting of civilians, execution-style, had been pre-planned by Russia before the invasion, Ms Venediktova said: “I think it is a strategy of their chief of commander, because we see the same strategy in other countries.
“They have Plan A: cities should capitulate, if a city does not capitulate it means Plan B: to scare this population to the maximum. Kill, rape, torture, and other brutal things.
“It is a strategy of war.”
She said there was also evidence of malice leading to murder.
In one case, her investigators received information on Russian soldiers who confronted a father, mother and two daughters in a village just outside Kyiv.
One of the daughters and the mother escaped, but the troops killed the second daughter, aged 41, and kept the father a prisoner, blindfolded in his basement for a week.
He asked his captors repeatedly why they had killed his daughter, Ms Venediktova said.
Eventually a soldier responded by saying: “She was wearing black. I just don’t like black.”
The prosecutor general said: “This is the reason why they killed a person.
“We have a huge number of such examples that they killed people with such reasons – they just don’t like them.”
She fears far more brutality is yet to be uncovered in parts of the country that are still fully or partially occupied by Russian forces – most notably Mariupol.
Russian forces have bombarded and besieged the port city in the southeast of Ukraine since the start of the war, making it very difficult for war crimes investigators to gather evidence.
Asked whether what Russia is doing in Ukraine amounted to genocide, Ms Venediktova said: “As a Ukrainian citizen I understand very much when our politicians and leaders speak about genocide. It is true and it’s a huge, terrible aggression against the Ukrainian state and against Ukrainian people….
“But for me as a prosecutor I should have access to Mariupol. I should have all evidence of this and after this I can speak and I can say and I can qualify these huge crimes as a genocide.”
She said ensuring Mr Putin ends up in court to face justice was the top priority for Ukraine’s prosecutors.
“We all understand who is responsible for this war… the president of the Russian Federation. This is his plan of destroying the Ukrainian nation, no one else.”