“Bucha and the Bucha district. 33 days of occupation. More than 1400 deaths, including 37 children. More than 175 people found in mass graves and torture chambers. 9000 Russian war crimes. 365 days since this is a free Ukrainian city again. A symbol of the atrocities of the occupying army. We will never forgive. We will punish all those responsible,” said President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy last year, on the first anniversary of the de-occupation of Bucha. However, the Prosecutor General’s Office has now told Slidstvo.Info journalists that only 55 occupiers have been served with suspicion notices, and indictments have been sent to court against 26 more Russians. In total, only 10 sentences have been handed down in court over the past two years.

31 March marks two years since Bucha was liberated from the Russian army. During the more than a month that the city was under the control of the occupiers, hundreds of Ukrainian civilians were tortured and killed. Ukrainian and international officials and organisations have recognised the actions of the Russian army as a war crime by Russia. The leaders of Ukraine, Moldova, Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia signed the Bucha Declaration on responsibility for the most serious crimes under international law committed on the territory of Ukraine, including the massacres in Bucha.

The place of execution of hostages on Yablunska Street in Bucha, where the Russian headquarters was located / Photo: Vadim Ghirda / AP

The Prosecutor General’s Office is investigating Russian war crimes in Bucha. However, as of the end of March 2024, on the second anniversary of the liberation of the town, the results of law enforcement are unimpressive.

The investigative journalism agency Slidstvo.Info asked the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine about the success of bringing to justice Russian military personnel who committed crimes against civilians during the occupation of Bucha.

According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, the investigation found that 695 civilians died in Bucha during the occupation of the city as a result of criminal acts by Russian military personnel against the civilian population.

As of 21 March 2024, the Office of the Prosecutor General reported on the implementation of procedural guidance in 8 criminal proceedings on the grounds of violation of the laws and customs of war (Article 438 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine), regarding 277 facts of violation of the laws and customs of war by representatives of the Russian occupation forces during the hostilities in Bucha.

In addition, the Prosecutor General’s Office noted that 55 people had received notices of suspicion, and indictments against 26 more Russians had been sent to court. In total, only 10 convictions have been handed down in court over the past two years.

Back in April 2022, Slidstvo.Info journalists identified these ‘Bucha executioners’, who were then notified by the prosecutor’s office of suspicion of committing ill-treatment of a civilian resident of Bucha. In May 2023, the Irpin Court of Kyiv Region sentenced nine of them in absentia to 11 to 12 years in prison.

The court handed down another sentence to the Russian occupier on 6 March 2024. However, Sergeant Nikita Akimov, who, according to local Ukrainian residents, terrorised the civilian population of Bucha the most, was most likely killed near Izium in May 2022. On 12 May, he was buried in his hometown of Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Russian local media reported.

Slidstvo.Info journalists were able to talk to two convicted Russian military officers guilty of cruel treatment of civilians.

Private Albert Radnayev, a native of Vladivostok, 10,000 kilometres from Kyiv. He joined the Russian army immediately after graduating from high school. After his military service, he signed a contract. Albert’s father is also a soldier, but it is not known whether he invaded Ukraine with his son or stayed in Russia.

We publish the interview below in full, with minor edits.

Journalist: Albert Bairovich Radnayev?

Radnayev: Well, let’s say so.

J.: What can you say about the fact that the Ukrainian court sentenced you to 11.5 years in prison?

R.: Ah… fuck off!

Later, Slidstvo.Info called Radnayev again. He immediately began to deny his presence in Bucha, calling the court’s evidence of his stay there during the occupation of the city in March 2022 “disinformation” and stating that he “was not there at all”.

The convict said that he served in the 64th Motorised Rifle Brigade of the Russian Federation until 2020.

“I served there [in the 64th Brigade] until November 2020. This is indicated in my military ID card. In March 2022, I was at home, lying on the couch,” the Russian said.

J.: Are you currently at war?

R.: No, I’m at home, I’m going on f*cking duty.

J.: Did you take part in the war in Ukraine?

R.: No, I was never there. No, no, no. I don’t support this bullshit at all. I don’t give a f**k about it, it doesn’t concern me or my family. If it doesn’t concern me, I don’t give a f**k. I don’t give a f**k about it at all. The main thing is that I don’t get dragged there [to the war in Ukraine – ed.], I don’t f**king need it.

J.: Why do you think you were included in the list of convicted Russians?

R: Who the f*ck knows, it’s old information, maybe my database was leaked, f**k…

J.: CCTV cameras recorded you and your stay in Bucha in March 2022.

R.: Well, I don’t f**king know. I wasn’t there at all. I’ve never… I didn’t know there was such a thing as a town of Bucha, or a f**king village. I don’t f**king know.

J.: What can you say about the genocide committed by the 64th Brigade in Bucha?

R.: I don’t know, I don’t follow it, I don’t watch the news, I don’t f**king need it.

J.: Has anyone called you about the verdict?

R: Yes, it was two years ago. Journalists and f**k knows who called. I don’t know who they were. I have never been to Bucha. I don’t know anything about it at all, about this settlement. I hope that the calls will stop.

Slidstvo.Info journalists also managed to get through to corporal Dmitriy Sergienko. He was sentenced to the maximum sentence provided for in part 1 of Article 438 on violation of the laws and customs of war. The Russian refused to plead guilty to committing a war crime, namely ill-treatment, torture and illegal detention of a civilian resident of Bucha, explaining that he “probably did not do it”.

When asked about his involvement in the war in Ukraine, Sergienko says that “it doesn’t matter”.

We publish the interview below in full, with minor edits.

Journalist: What can you tell us about the occupation of Bucha, what you did there, why you went to fight in Ukraine?

Sergiyenko: Why do you need to know this? Who are you and why should I tell you anything?

J.: Do you understand that sooner or later you will be punished for the crimes you committed?

S.: Well, and if I have not committed them, what will catch up with me? Let’s say that it’s all bullshit. What can you say to that?

J.: There are eyewitnesses, residents of the city, who recognised you from photographs. You were recorded on CCTV cameras in Bucha. The court has the evidence on the basis of which you were sentenced to 12 years in prison.

S.: So, issue a notice, what’s the problem?

J.: So you were in Bucha, but you don’t admit that you committed crimes there?

S.: What does it matter if I was there, if I did… if there is (laughter)… the case has been referred to the court – send a notice, I’m not going to tell you anything, I’ll tell the court.

J.: The court tried to contact you.

S.: Which court?

J.: The Irpin court of the Kyiv oblast.

S.: Well, they had some shitty luck getting in touch with me. I don’t know, you contacted me somehow, but the court didn’t succeed. You are a court official, right?

J.: No, I’m not from the court. I’m a journalist from Ukraine.

S.: Well, I don’t know what I can tell you. Some journalists have already called me about this. I told them everything, I told them that it was all a lie, it was all just a made-up story. I don’t know why and what the fuck they put me in there for. I don’t know.

J.: What do you mean, they put you in there?

S.: Well, like this. They took, you know, as it happens, 10 people, probably just random people from the military unit who were in the VKontakte group, stuck photos from the social network, just put the random ones there and that’s it – “you are guilty”. And whether the person was there or not, no one looked into it, they just put it there and that was it, “we found it”. I mean, I wasn’t there, I didn’t participate, I served my contract, I got the fuck out of there, out of the military unit, and that’s it.

J.: So you didn’t take part in the war against Ukraine?

S.: No, I didn’t participate in the “special military operation”. I served my contract, two years in Khabarovsk, and then I left the service for civilian service and I’m still f**king around here.

J.: How do you feel about what your brigade did in Bucha?

S.: I think it’s all lies and fiction. I keep in touch with the guys and with my brigade, with my company, half of them were not even there. And those who were, they don’t say much. I don’t know what happened there. I can’t tell you anything.

J.: How do you feel about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?

S.: Well, everything is sad, of course. A sad situation, a war, a special operation…

J.: Do you approve of the so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine?

S.: It’s not for me to judge anyone, it wasn’t my idea. Until I receive a notice, this does not concern me.

J.: If it concerned you, if you received a call, would you go to war?

S.: If I received a call-up, of course, I would go. But where would I go, run somewhere?

J.: You do realise that it is a crime to take part in a war against an independent country, don’t you?

S.: No, well, if you look at it from this angle… If you look at it from another angle, I’m not going to go there of my own free will. Well, if they say I’ll go, if they don’t, I won’t. I’m not going anywhere as a volunteer.

We would like to add that all other Russian military personnel who received sentences for committing war crimes against civilians during the occupation of Bucha are likely to have survived. This is evidenced by the activity of most of the occupiers on social media.

In April 2022, the Slidstvo.Info team joined the investigation of the Bucha genocide. In particular, journalists helped law enforcement officers identify the occupiers and find more information about them. Slidstvo.Info also managed to identify some of the commanders of the 64th motorised rifle brigade from Khabarovsk. This unit was notable for particular atrocities during the occupation of Bucha, where hundreds of civilians were brutally shot, many of them tortured to death. 

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