Among the ruins of Borodyanka, prosecutors are investigating 400 war crimes charges

When Russian troops burst into Borodyanka, Ukraine in the first days after the invasion, Vitaliy Lusyi, 43, said the young soldiers told him they were there to root out the Nazis from the community 60 kilometers east of kyiv.

But in the days that followed, as large swaths of Borodyanka were shelled and hit by airstrikes, he says soldiers began to interrogate him, before torturing him for two days and forcing him to stand. kneel in a shallow hole in the ground.

“I was thinking about how to stay alive,” Lusyi said in an interview outside her family home. “They were beating me hard and everything was painful.”

The electrician, who remained in Borodyanka to feed his chickens as many of his family members fled to western Ukraine, has been visited by investigators twice since the community of 13,000 was liberated people at the end of March.

His case is one of more than 400 local prosecutors are investigating in Borodyanka alone.

Ukrainian officials said Russia deliberately shelled a civilian area in Borodyanka. Piles of rubble are now a common site in the community 60 kilometers east of kyiv. (Briar Stewart/CBC)

Across Ukraine, officials say there are more than 10,000 war crimes allegations being investigated by a multinational team, including dozens of officials from the International Criminal Court.

The process can take years

As the country saw its first war crimes case brought to court, with a 21-year-old Russian tank commander pleading guilty to killing a 62-year-old man on a bicycle, prosecutors say it will be extremely difficult to find the Russian military at the center of ongoing investigations.

The process will likely take years.

Borodyanka suffered some of the most devastating damage in Kyiv Oblast, where multi-storey apartment buildings collapsed into heaps of rubble.

In a report published by Amnesty International on May 6, the organization said Russian airstrikes hit eight residential buildings in Borodyanka during the first two days of March, killing at least 40 people.

Ivan Zaharchenko, 78 years old. His building was attacked and he lives with his daughter and son-in-law. (Glen Kugelstadt/CBC)

The report called the attacks “disproportionate and indiscriminate and apparent war crimes”, given that the Russian military must have realized that civilians would be in the residential buildings.

In Lusyi’s case, he said Ukraine’s Security Service had twice visited his home to take statements about his experience, but he’s not sure anyone will be held accountable.

CBC News was unable to independently corroborate Lusyi’s account of a challenge in a war environment.

Lusyi said Russian soldiers fired into his house and pointed to what appeared to be bullet holes in a front door and an interior wall. He also showed CBC News a lock that was on that front door, but now contained a bullet.

He frequently saw the Russian soldiers, he said, as they parked a military vehicle near the end of his driveway. But on March 16, they started accusing him of stealing their balls, he said.

Rescuers work among the remains of a residential building destroyed by Russian shelling in Borodyanka on April 8. Ukrainian officials say Russian airstrikes deliberately targeted civilian areas. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

“I could barely breathe”

When he denied taking any ammunition, Lusyi said he was handcuffed and had a bag placed over his head. He said he was taken to another location, where he was interrogated while soldiers pulled him between the knees to scare him.

“The horror started when they put the bag over my head, taped it so I could barely breathe.”

At one point he said a soldier took off his shoes and forced him to kneel in a hole in the ground for hours, where he said he cowered in pain. a previous beating.

Afterwards, he said he was taken to a basement and told by a soldier that he was going to shoot him. Then he was suddenly taken outside and released.

WATCH | According to Ukraine, civilians are targeted at Borodyanka:

Borodyanka residents wonder why the Russians targeted them

WARNING: This video contains graphic footage | Search and rescue efforts continue in Borodyanka, Ukraine, as residents wonder why they were hit hard by Russian forces in a town with no military base.

Russia, which insists its invasion of Ukraine is a special military operation, has denied it intentionally targeted civilians.

220 war crimes suspects

Stanislav Kozynchuk, a prosecutor at the Kyiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office, told CBC News that his team had identified more than 220 Russian soldiers suspected of committing war crimes at Borodyanka.

The cases range from soldiers destroying buildings, shooting at vehicles and killing civilians.

“The most difficult thing is that these people we are looking for are not in Ukraine or are still on the battlefield,” Kozynchuk said. “These are areas that are not under our control.”

Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine, Larisa Galadza, visits the destruction of Borodyanka with local prosecutors investigating war crimes allegations. (Briar Stewart/CBC)

On May 19, Kozynchuk was part of a brief tour involving Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine, Larisa Galadza, who only recently returned to the country after the Canadian Embassy was relocated to Poland just before the invasion.

Galadza met with war crimes prosecutors, including the head of the International Criminal Court team.

“We talked… about how important it was for Ukrainians to have this opportunity so soon,” the ambassador said. “The war continues in the country, but they have access to justice.”