Videos and eyewitness testimony provided evidence of Russian troops executing eight Ukrainian men in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, implicating them in a possible war crime, The New York Times reported Thursday.
“I was shot and I fell down,” the lone survivor of the March 4 execution, 43-year-old builder Ivan Skyba, recounted to the NYT.
“I fell down and I pretended to be dead,” Skyba said, adding that he fled 15 minutes after the Russian troops left.
Skyba was one of the nine men rounded up by Russian paratroopers and brought to their makeshift base and field hospital inside a four-story office building.
Six of them, including Skyba, had been manning a nearby checkpoint during Russia’s advance. One was a homeowner who had offered them and two other fighters a hideout.
Most of the victims were local residents who had reportedly joined various defense forces due to Ukraine’s restrictions on men leaving the country.
One of the nine captives reportedly confessed to being a fighter and was released; Ukrainian authorities are said to be investigating him on suspicion of “high treason.”
Seven civilians who were brought separately inside the makeshift Russian base told the NYT they saw Russian troops marching the men around the corner, then heard gunshots — and did not see the captives return.
The NYT corroborated its account with security camera footage of Russian troops marching nine men, some hunched over and holding the belts of those in front of them, at gunpoint.
A drone video the NYT said was filmed the next day on March 5 showed the dead bodies with two Russian soldiers standing beside them.
One of the bodies was wearing the same blue sweatshirt seen in one of several widely spread photographs that have fueled global outrage over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The NYT said the evidence it obtained could directly implicate Russian paratroopers from the 104th and 234th Airborne Assault Regiments in a war crime.
“[It] is the kind of incident that could become a strong case for war crimes prosecution,” Stephen Rapp, former U.S. ambassador-at-large for crimes issues, told the NYT.
Ukraine said more than 1,200 bodies have been found in the Kyiv region, including Bucha, since Russian troops withdrew from areas surrounding Kyiv in late March.
Ukrainian prosecutors have registered more than 12,000 alleged war crimes involving more than 600 suspects since the Kremlin launched its offensive on Feb. 24.
Russian officials have repeatedly denied targeting civilians in the invasion of Ukraine, dismissing the evidence of atrocities in cities like Bucha as “fake” and a “provocation.”