War crimes, including rape, torture and the imprisonment of children, have been committed in Ukraine’s Russian-occupied territories, the head of an UN-mandated investigative body said on Friday.
Ukraine and its Western allies have alleged rights abuses by Russian troops since the February 24 invasion, but have been denied by Moscow as a smear campaign.
He did not specify who is to blame, but the commission has previously focused on areas occupied by Russian forces such as Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy.
In March, investigators from the Commission, set up by the Rights Council, visited 27 locations and interviewed more than 150 victims and witnesses.
Mose said he had found evidence of a large number of executions, including bodies with hands tied, throats slit and bullet wounds to the head.
He said investigators had identified victims of sexual violence between the ages of four and 82. While some Russian soldiers used sexual violence as a tactic, the commission “has not established any general pattern to that effect”, Mose said.
Russia denies designedly attacking civilians during its” special military operation”.
Russia was called to respond to the allegations at the council meeting but its seat was left vacant.
There was no immediate official response from Moscow.
The commission will next turn its attention to allegations of “filtration” camps in Russian-occupied territories for the processing of Ukrainian prisoners, as well as claims of the forced relocation of people and adoption of Ukrainian children in Russia.
Ukraine and some other countries also urged the commission to investigate a mass burial site near Izium in eastern Ukraine, where hundreds of bodies were found.
Sometimes council-initiated investigations can be used before national and international courts, such as in the case of a former Syrian intelligence officer jailed for state-backed torture in Germany in January.
Mose said he is in contact with the International Criminal Court about the commission’s findings. The body is due to submit a full report to the council at the end of its mandate in March 2023, including recommendations on how to hold criminals accountable.