The collection of preliminary interviews by the lawyers and psychologists of the Center for War Crimes Documentation (further – Center) started on September, 12, 2022. Since that time, and until November, 7, 2023, 1,272 preliminary interviews have been collected, of which 403 were recorded in the period from May, 15, to November, 7, 2023, when the Center’s activities were supported by the UK Government.
|Month of Center’s activities||Number of interviews as inserted into a database|
|Until November 7||10|
From August 16 to November 7, 2023 the Center held 219 interviews and largely expanded the geography.
|Place of evidence collection (August 16 – November 7)||Number of interviews|
|City||Name of a shelter|
|Urząd pracy, Marszalkowska 77/79||46|
|ul. Łazienkowska 14||9|
|ul. Koronowska, 24A||2|
|ul. Żupnicza, 11||2|
|ul. Jana Pawla II, 15||5|
|Nowy Dwor Mazowiecki||1||3|
Thus, out of 219 interviews entered into the database, 120 were collected in the city of Warsaw, and 99 in 6 centers outside the capital. In total, in the period from August 16 to November 7, 2023, the Center conducted 9 trips (Lodz 31.08; Bydgoszcz 23.09; Toruń 1.10; Bydgoszcz 7.10; Toruń 10.10; Lodz 14.10; Białystok 21-22.10; Augustow 28-29.10; Ilawa 5.11 (data from Augustow and Ilavy are not included in the general statistics, as they haven’t been yet inserted into the database, they will be reflected in the final report).
Typical witness profile (testimonies collected during May 15 – Nov 7)
Most interviewed eye-witnesses (73%) were women (929), and 27% were men (343). It can be explained by the peculiarities of Ukrainian state border crossing rules during the martial law. From May, 15, to November, 7, with the support from the UK Government, the Center interviewed 79% of women (319) and 21% of men (84).
|Gender of interviewees||Number of interviewees||From May, 15, to November, 7|
The methodology used by the Center for War Crimes Documentation foresees the interviewing of off-age eye-witnesses, but children were present in four cases, and they were contributing to their parents’ (caregivers) testimonies, upon their consent. Thus, 37% of eye-witnesses interviewed (472) were of 31 to 45 years of age; 22% were from 46 to 60 (296); 22% were 60+ (278); 12% were under 30 (152). In 62 cases, eye-witnesses wished to remain anonymous and did not give their consent to publicize their age.
|Age of interviewees||Number of interviewees||Share||In the period 15.05-7.11||Share during the period of 15.05-7.11|
Territorial Affiliation of the Interviewees
Most respondents are coming from the regions that were, to different extent, covered by hostilities, and the occupied territories. The interviewed residents from western and central regions of Ukraine and from the Kyiv city were the direct eye-witnesses of air raids (they directly saw the air bombs or the strikes).
|Oblast||Number of interviewees||Share||In the period of 15.05-7.11||Share in the period of 15.05-7.11|
|Oblast||Number of episodes registered in the region||Share||In the period of 15.05-7.11||Share in the period of 15.05-7.11|
Types of War Crimes Identified During the Preliminary Interviews
|War Crime Type||Number of cases reported by eye-witnesses||Share||In the period of 15.05-7.11||Share in the period of 15.05-7.11|
|Killings (shooting) or wounding civilians||374||4,14||110||3,99|
|Killings/shootings of healthcare professionals/paramedics, rescuers, members of international missions||9||0,1||2||0,07|
|Killing a POW||5||0,05||1||0,04|
|Killing the wounded military who was no longer participating in the combat||19||0,21||2||0,07|
|Active military action near or within residential quarters||565||6,25||113||4,1|
|Enemies using civilian cloths, uniforms and emblems of the Ukrainian Armed Forces or humanitarian (also IRCC) or medical institutions||55||0,61||29||1,05|
|The use of prohibited weapon, such as chemical weapons, cluster munitions, phosphorus bombs, etc.||169||1,87||49||1,78|
|Use of civilian infrastructure (schools, hospitals, culture institutions, etc.) for military purposes||360||3,98||106||3,84|
|Deportation or forced displacement of a person (group of persons), and children||131||1,45||42||1,52|
|Abduction or keeping hostage a person||181||2||49||1,78|
|Destruction (such as burning) or abuse and brutalization of bodies of the killed persons||62||0,68||20||0,72|
|Rape or other sexual violence types||41||0,45||21||0,76|
|Torture or violent treatment of people||301||3,33||90||3,26|
|Mining residential neighbourhoods and facilities (schools, hospitals, etc.), property (cars, devices, etc.), human bodies, etc.||129||1,43||33||1,2|
|Illegal detention or imprisonment of a person, mob justice||366||4,05||105||3,81|
|Obstructing in access to medical care, or evacuation||314||3,47||102||3,7|
|Damage to their own property||649||7,18||208||7,54|
|Damaging other persons’ property||1151||12,73||355||12,87|
|Damage to hazardous facilities (nuclear power plants, storages with chemicals, etc.)||113||1,25||38||1,38|
|Damage to culture or art facilities||393||4,35||106||3,84|
|Damage or destruction of civilian facilities (schools, health care facilities, residential care institutions, etc.)||1045||11,56||338||12,26|
|Damage to other infrastructure facilities (electricity, gas, water, oil supply networks, etc.)||886||9,8||283||10,26|
|Hiding behind civilians (the use of “living shields”)||191||2,11||59||2,14|
|Conducting biological or other experiments over people||3||0,03||1||0,04|
|Pillaging of property||421||4,65||125||4,53|
|Fragments of shells in residential neighbourhoods||767||8,48||237||8,59|
|Purposeful settlement of Russians in the captured Ukrainian territories||182||2,01||57||2,07|
|Harm to ecology/environment due to shelling||100||1,11||40||1,45|
Summary for War Crime Types for the period from May, 16, to November, 7, 2023
Almost all interviewees mentioned during the interviews that they had eye-witnessed or heard about the commission of several war crimes in the respective settlement. In most cases, it was about the destruction or damage of property, such as over the period from 16.05 to 07.11, 355 interviewees testified to the destruction or damage of property of other persons, 208 respondents referred to their own property. Most interviewees (237 cases) saw the fragments of shells in the settlements near residential housing.
Eyewitnesses saw active hostilities in residential quarters, and the use of unauthorized weapons (49 cases).
Summary of testimonies collected from August, 16, to November, 7, by separate crime types
Destruction or damage to civilian and critical infrastructure facilities
Almost all eyewitnesses saw the damage or destruction of residential houses or civilian infrastructure facilities, mostly during air raids, and also from shelling and bombing from other types of weapons when it was in the territories close to combat area. For example, in the beginning of the full-scale invasion, those were air bombing and artillery shelling that caused the destruction of a stadium, buildings in the center, main Post Office, Ukrayina hotel, major destruction in the area of Bobrovytsia place (Chernihiv); russian military aircraft and helicopters МІ-8, and МІ-28 shelled the houses and the area of Chornobayivka (Kherson region). After the RF troops approached Chernihiv, they started shelling from tanks, they shelled from the GRAD systems (Kharkiv region, Kherson region). According to eyewitnesses, in Nikopol, mass shelling started in July, 2022, and certain damage to windows and roofs can now be observed in almost every building.
Some witnesses suffered harm to their health in the shelling, such as one eyewitness and her husband were crushed by the house’s debris. As a result, the witness was injured in the head, and lost hearing in one ear, and her husband had his vocal cords hurt, and another person unidentified by that witness was also killed (Mykolayiv region). When they dismantled the remains of buildings, witnesses also saw human remains (Zaporizhzhia).
Russian military placed their military vehicles near residential houses on the occupied territories, wherefrom they shelled other settlements of Ukraine. The shelling was launched from the settlement and near houses. In the garages near houses, RF military stored their munition. There are testimonies about self-shelling of settlements in the occupied territories since the shells were flying from the direction where Russian troops were located.
The use of prohibited kinds of weapons, such as phosphorus bombs (Lysychansk), cluster munitions (Chuhuyiv district, Kharkiv region; Maryinka district in Donetsk region).
According to witnesses, as a result of shelling, the settlements closely located to the area of hostilities, found themselves on the brink of humanitarian disaster (no water supply, power or heating supply).
According to third persons, in Energodar, when the NPP was captured, some guards of the plant were either injured or killed. Russian military entered the plant premises on military vehicles. The shelling also damaged the building of the plant’s training center. They also shelled from the tank the first power unit at the NPP. After the blast at Kakhovka dam, water supply was cut off in some settlements; the houses were destroyed by the flooding in Hola Prystan.
There were strikes at the Kremenchuk oil refinery, TPP, Oil black plant, and Amstor mall,. When the oil refinery was on fire, there was a heavy smog and reek in the air. Witnesses from Kherson region witnessed the shelling of the nature reserve Askania Nova and the Dendrological park.
Eye-witnesses also complain about their deteriorated health condition caused by distress. The decision to leave Ukraine’s territory is impacted by the intensity and the coverage area of missile strikes. For example, one family left their home region of Dnipropetrovsk because of shelling. They lived in a shelter in Lviv, near the Stryiskyi Park. The decision to relocate to Poland was made after the strike of Russian missiles into the residential building near the shelter in early July.
Testimonies of eyewitnesses about developments during the occupation
During the occupation, Russian troops prohibited to civilians to move between settlements, sometimes they even prohibited to bring bread. Russian soldiers searched houses of civilians and damaged property, such as shot at it. They also seized valuables (e.g., in a house of an eyewitness, they took away the gas convector), and also broke Internet cables (e.g., in the town of Horodnia in Chernihiv region), they seized telephones, and cruelly treated the owners (village of Kotsiubynsky in Kyiv region), pillaged whatever was left in the stores; it was no longer possible to bring supplies from Ukraine that is why all food ran out fast (Kherson region). Also, soldiers seized vehicles from local residents, looted property of private businesses and businessmen, from farmers, they re-registered land plots and other property for their names and took away the equipment (Kherson region).
Occupation authorities “replaced” the elected representatives for local self-governments. local population were forced into accepting russian citizenship. When organizing pseudo referenda, armed people and members of the “pseudo commissions” went door-to-door in houses and at workplaces in companies, brought along ballot boxes, and made people vote. Occupation administrations relied on collaborators who transferred to them information about local people and local community. For example, in the town of Oleshky, a female collaborator burnt Ukrainian books in the school.
They conducted mass searches of local residents. The procedure included the location of combat weapons near houses, they aimed it at the house, blocked the street, and armed individuals searched the houses. If no one answered the door, the military would knock out the door and continued with the search. They searched for weapons, IDs of Ukrainian Army members, territorial defense fighters, border guards, and law-enforcement officers. They took away hunting guns from everyone. When they came to interrogate about any representatives of local Ukrainian authorities that the house residents might know, they might have with them an investigator or a psychologist who went all lengths to extract information. They also stopped civilians who passed by the military in the streets. They were asked to take everything out of their pockets. There were cases when a wallet could be seized (Kherson region). They could test fire the streets with civilian pedestrians from their military vehicles when passing by.
In Melitopol, RF military dressed as civilians. After the occupation, many new civilian people came to the city, who were not local but Russian. In a village of Martove, in Kharkiv region, occupation authorities prohibited people to walk out from cellars, and intimidated them.
There was no heating, water or gas supply, and residents had to make their food outside in open fires (town of Horodnia in Chernihiv region, city of Mariupol in Donetsk region).
Russian military arbitrarily settled into houses or settled in russian citizens, mostly family members of the military. They usually selected some best houses where the houseowners relocated, although witnesses from Kherson region told about cases when the military also settled in the houses with lonely elderly people living in.
Russian military were fun-shooting within residential settlements, often intoxicated; and they also shot down all dogs in some settlements.
Cases of illegal detention and torture
Local residents who did not collaborate with the occupation authorities, volunteers, and proactive citizens were detained for interrogations, tortured, intimidated, and coerced into collaboration, under the threat of violence. Witnesses mentioned cases when civilians were taken away to provide testimonies right from the streets, and those people did not return home. According to local residents, they kept the longest the representatives of local self-governments, including city and village mayors, and company directors.
All occupied places had the sites of illegal detention, when local residents usually knew their whereabouts.
War Crimes Against Children
In the occupied territories, armed Russian military members seized all food supplies, also from families with underage children.
In a town of Hola Prystan, the military settled in the buildings of a children’s boarding institution; the children who used to reside there were taken away by the occupiers to some places unknown to witnesses.
Children were made to attend Russian schools. In cases when parents did not agree, they were threatened to have their children taken away from families and deprive them of parental rights. In addition to Russian curricula, lessons in the occupation schools have a military focus, including military drills. A witness from Kherson region reported that children after 10 are taken from schools, in an organized manner, to military training camps, to train them for future participation in the combat. Parents are made to buy Russian type military uniforms for their children.
War Crimes During Evacuation and Filtration Rounds
The Center’s staff collected testimonies from persons who avoided the injuries from the missile strike at Kramatorsk train station because they were 30 minutes late for the evacuation train. In the end, they only arrived to see the consequences of the strike, and the evacuation train that eventually took them to Lviv travelling for 30 hours was overcrowded. The column of motor vehicles trying to evacuate from Kherson fell under artillery shelling, with casualties and fatalities.
Russian soldiers obstructed evacuation; they did not let people out from the occupied territories (town of Horodnia in Chernihiv region). The evacuation routes with civilian cars were also shelled from GRAD MLRS. Thus, on the road to Vasylivka towards Kamyanske, a witness saw about twenty civilian cars burnt and shelled. At the roadblocks, at the border crossings, there were long waiting times for document checks, telephones and luggage screenings (such as at the border between Russia and Belarus, a witness was held for 7 hours). At the roadblocks, men were undressed, they were screened for tattoo; including also cases of undressing minor boys.
The occupation authorities did not evacuate anyone from the flooded areas following the blast at Kakkhovka dam. The witnesses said that their family members had to evacuate on their own, with no support or facilitation, and one female witness who suffered the flooding shared that 11 people were staying in the attic trying to save from high water. Eventually, Ukrainian volunteers helped them evacuate. Her cattle, a house, and the entire homestead were flooded. According to the witness, many people died in the flooding.