Ukrainian police search for bodies and collaborators in the ruins of Bucha and Borodyanka

·3 min read
A Ukrainian volunteer searching for victims of alleged Russian atrocities in Borodyanka, a suburb 55 kilometres west of the capital, Kyiv, sits among the ruins of a home on Friday.  (David Common/CBC News - image credit)
A Ukrainian volunteer searching for victims of alleged Russian atrocities in Borodyanka, a suburb 55 kilometres west of the capital, Kyiv, sits among the ruins of a home on Friday. (David Common/CBC News - image credit)

Law enforcement and security services in Kyiv are looking into at least 10 cases of local residents in the Bucha region suspected of collaborating with Russian troops accused of committing war crimes, the city's deputy head of police said Monday.

Maksym Ocheretianyi refused to identify the suspects during a special media briefing on Monday and would only say that some individuals who might have been "involved in collaboration with the enemy" were notified recently that they are under suspicion.

Bucha, a small community outside of Kyiv, was the scene of some of the most horrific atrocities committed against civilians in the two months since Russian forces invaded Ukraine. Moscow denies its troops carried out the slaughter there or in other nearby communities, such as Borodyanka.

The cases of alleged collaboration are still under investigation, and Ocheretianyi wouldn't speculate on whether the investigations could lead to charges. The fate of the accused would be "decided by the court of law," he said.

Ukraine's prosecutor general, Irina Venediktova, said Sunday that as many 15 cases of collusion could be prosecuted in the country's capital.

That is fewer than the number of suspected traitors the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said it was pursuing last month. Artyom Dehtyarenko, an SBU spokesperson, was quoted by the local Kyiv Independent newspaper saying 33 alleged collaborators have been identified throughout the Kyiv region.

The SBU, the national and local police, the Ukrainian military's territorial defence units and the State Emergency Service say they are working together to find suspected collaborators and possibly prosecute them for treason.

When Russian troops pushed to the edge of Kyiv in early March, they reportedly carried with them lists of names and addresses of people to be arrested during the occupation — perhaps culled from a hack of Ukraine's auto insurance registry in early January, a cybercrime revealed by authorities recently. They also worked with local residents sympathetic to Moscow.

Back in February, the United States reported that it had "credible information" that Russian forces were compiling lists of Ukrainians to be killed or interned in the event of occupation.

Collaborators could have been involved in helping to track down individuals the Russians wanted to arrest, or could have pointed out Ukrainian military positions.

Murder in a war zone

The war unleashed a series of crimes that may have nothing to do with the atrocities committed by Russians, Ocheretianyi said, and efforts to distinguish those investigations from the effects of the war are underway.

For example, up to 114 people have been notified that they are suspected of murder, he said.

"Unfortunately, we do have such facts, but, you know, our responsibility as law enforcement is to identify such people and bring them" to justice, Ocheretianyi said in translated comments Monday.

Venediktova said her office is investigating 9,158 criminal cases that are related to "purely war crimes."

Her team unveiled its first war crimes charges last week against members of Russia's military.

Emilio Morenatti/The Associated Press
Emilio Morenatti/The Associated Press

Three weeks ago, the RCMP announced it would help Ukrainian authorities by interviewing those who fled to Canada about what they witnessed.

Britain, France and other allies this week dispatched investigators to help with the investigation and promised to use intelligence to link specific Russian military commanders with specific crimes.

Ocheretianyi said authorities have recovered bodies of 1,202 civilians from the Kyiv region so far, but identifying the remains can be difficult. Eight mass graves have been uncovered in the area.

"These are local, innocent civilians, our citizens," Ocheretianyi said.

"Those dead bodies have clear signs of torture. Not only have their hands been tied up ... they also have been [shot] in their legs. They were killed by [being shot] in their head. That brutality, that cruelty terrifies police officers and the public."

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