Documenting Atrocities in the War in Ukraine

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, The New York Times has been collecting evidence of brutalities. While many acts of war are disturbing and regrettable, some — especially those that show disregard for the lives of civilians — are considered by the International Criminal Court and other international organizations to be especially heinous, in some cases rising to the level of war crimes.

This page collects Times reporting that includes direct photo, video and audio evidence of these violent acts.

Many of the articles on this page contain extremely graphic material that readers may find difficult to view.

Willful Killing of Noncombatants

International agreements on the rules of war were extended and strengthened after World War II, partly to protect civilians and others not engaged in armed combat. Under the Geneva Conventions of 1949, prohibited acts include “violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture.” The International Criminal Court considers “grave breaches” of these rules to be war crimes.

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New Evidence Shows How Russian Soldiers Executed Men in Bucha

Published May 19, 2022

Witness testimony and videos obtained exclusively by The New York Times show how Russian paratroopers executed at least eight Ukrainian men in a Kyiv suburb on March 4, all potential war crimes. The information offers the clearest evidence yet that the victims were in Russian custody just before they were fatally shot. It contradicts Kremlin claims that the crimes were fabricated by Ukraine to falsely depict the Russians as the killers.

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Bucha’s Month of Terror

Published April 11, 2022

The body of a man on the road between Bucha and Irpin.Daniel Berehulak
A man with a gunshot wound to the head near his bicycle just outside Bucha.Daniel Berehulak
The body of a civilian in the yard of a destroyed home on Yablunska Street.Daniel Berehulak
Yablunska Street became the deadliest stretch of road for passing civilians.Daniel Berehulak

Dozens of bodies were discovered in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, about 20 miles from the capital. Journalists on assignment for The Times accompanied Bucha’s coroner as he determined the causes of death for 58 corpses.

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Satellite Images Show Bodies Lay in Bucha for Weeks, Despite Russian Claims

Published April 4, 2022

Maxar Technologies

Early in April, as Ukraine began to retake Russian-occupied towns in the suburbs of Kyiv, hundreds of corpses of civilian residents were found. They included children, older people and families. Some were discovered with their hands bound, some on their own property, some with gunshots to the head.

When reports and photographs of the bodies emerged, Russia claimed the deaths had been staged or had occurred after its soldiers had left. But New York Times reporting showed that many of the bodies had been visible on satellite images taken before the Russian pullout.

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Under Fire, Out of Fuel: What Intercepted Russian Radio Chatter Reveals

Published March 23, 2022

By Robin Stein, Christiaan Triebert, Natalie Reneau, Aleksandra Koroleva and Drew Jordan

In the Kyiv suburb of Makariv, visual evidence and interviews reveal multiple instances where Russian forces appear to have openly fired on Ukrainian civilians. Security camera footage obtained and verified by The Times shows a Russian armored vehicle firing several rounds into a car occupied by two older people, with no apparent warning or provocation. Intercepted radio transmissions analyzed by The Times reveal members of the Russian military discussing a plan “to cover the residential area with artillery.”

Targeting of Civilian Areas

It is a war crime under international law to deliberately or recklessly attack civilian populations and sites where civilians would be likely to congregate. These sites include not just homes and apartments, but also hospitals, schools, public transit and cultural centers, and places of worship.

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In Ukraine, Sudden Death on a Train Platform

Published April 8, 2022

​​Bodies covered in tarpaulin after a missile attack on the railway station in Kramatorsk.Anatolii Stepanov/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Kramatorsk, in eastern Ukraine, had been a main departure point for thousands trying to leave for safer points west in the sixth week of the war. Its train station was packed with people on April 8 when the station became the target of a rocket assault that killed at least 50 and wounded many more.

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Russia’s Attacks on Civilian Targets Have Obliterated Everyday Life in Ukraine

Published March 23, 2022

The Times analyzed thousands of videos, photos and reports from the ground in Ukraine and identified more than 1,500 civilian buildings, vehicles and structures damaged by Russian forces. These include at least 23 hospitals and health infrastructure buildings, 330 schools, 27 cultural buildings, 98 commercial buildings, and 900 houses and apartments.

Russian attacks have damaged preschools, post offices, museums, sports facilities, factories and zoos. Power and gas lines have been severed; bridges and railway stations blown up. And at least 10 houses of worship have become targets. “To the extent that we’re seeing strikes on a daily basis, that’s just, at best, a level of carelessness that is incompatible with proper conduct of a war under humanitarian law,” said Leila Sadat, a professor and an adviser to the International Criminal Court.

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Russia Is Destroying Kharkiv

Published March 17, 2022

A destroyed living room in a building damaged by shelling in Kharkiv.Andrew Marienko/Associated Press

Kharkiv, once a vibrant academic city of nearly 1.5 million people, has suffered enormous destruction, including buildings protected under the rules of war. “They are destroying our historical heritage and our architectural heritage. They want to destroy it all, they want to demoralize people,” said Dmytro Kuzubov, a Kharkiv resident.

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Denying Civilians Access to Evacuation or Aid

Under the Geneva Conventions, it is illegal to prevent civilians from leaving a combat area to reach safety or block them from receiving essential medical and food supplies. These provisions have been repeatedly violated in the war and in some cases were documented by journalists as they happened.

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The Daily: Inside Mariupol

Published April 1, 2022

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Russia has waged a brutal campaign in Mariupol. The city is of strategic importance — capturing it would create a land bridge between Russian-controlled territories,Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

The southeastern port city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov was once home to 450,000 people. Much of it has been obliterated by Russian forces. Roughly three-quarters of the population has fled or is unaccounted for, and food, water and power are scarce or nonexistent. Ukrainian officials say at least 20,000 residents have been killed, including at least 300 who had been sheltering in a theater.

Satellite images show evidence of mass graves, and repeated efforts to organize safe evacuations have collapsed. Thousands of Mariupol residents have been taken to Russian territory, possibly against their will. In late April Russia said it had effective control of the city, and the last significant pocket of resistance, ensconced in a vast steel mill, surrendered to Russian forces in mid-May.

While the city may be a militarily strategic prize for Russia, it is also the site of many potential war crimes, including willful killing of civilians, indiscriminate attacks on protected sites, denial of humanitarian aid and forced relocation.

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Russian Soldiers Took Their City, Then Their Homes

Published March 20, 2022

Video evidence, along with interviews with seven residents of the Pokrovsky apartment complex in the town of Hostomel, reveal an extended trauma suffered by about 200 people who lived in the residential buildings after Russian forces occupied the complex. The soldiers held many residents hostage in the basements of their own buildings, forcing them to surrender their phones and taking over their apartments.

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Ukrainian Family’s Dash for Safety Ends in Death

Published March 6, 2022

Ukrainian soldiers were unable to save a family seeking to flee after they were struck by Russian mortar fire in Irpin.Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Early in the war, Lynsey Addario, a photojournalist on assignment for The Times, witnessed the killing of a Ukrainian family by Russian mortar fire in Irpin, a suburb of Kyiv. A mother, her two children and a family friend, laden with backpacks and a blue suitcase, had been trying to evacuate their city amid harsh fighting there. They were struck down before they could make it to the capital. Ms. Addario’s image was widely shared as early evidence of the brutality of the Russian invasion. She discussed the story behind the photo on an episode of “The Daily.”

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Killing of Surrendered or Captured Soldiers

The humane treatment of prisoners of war was a provision of the Geneva Conventions for many years before the international agreements were expanded in 1949 to protect civilians and others not engaged in fighting. The provision is based on the idea that prisoners of war — soldiers who surrender or are captured — no longer present a threat because they are not combatants.

Under this provision, these soldiers must not be killed or abused. Their captors must provide information about them and permit visits to prison camps by representatives of neutral states. These protections were later strengthened to ensure prisoners receive adequate food and delivery of relief supplies. Captors are also forbidden from pressuring prisoners to supply more than a minimum of information, including name, rank and date of birth.

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Video Appears to Show Ukrainian Troops Killing Captured Russian Soldiers

Published April 6, 2022

A still frame from a video posted online shows Ukrainian soldiers at the scene where Russian soldiers were executed around March 30.VOENACHER via Telegram

A clip posted to social media and verified by The Times appears to show a group of Ukrainian soldiers, including one who fatally shoots an apparently wounded Russian soldier. At least three other dead Russian soldiers appear to be seen nearby.

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Use of Widely Banned Weapons

Land mines and cluster munitions, once widely used weapons, have been banned by international treaties. Although neither Russia nor Ukraine has ratified the treaty governing cluster munitions, their use of these weapons in civilian-populated areas is still considered a war crime under international law.

The military forces of both countries are known to have deployed these munitions, which disperse small bomblets over a wide area and kill or maim indiscriminately. But the evidence points to far greater use by Russia than by Ukraine. Russia is also known to have used a type of dispersible land mine that can turn residential areas into lethal no-go zones.

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Land Mines on a Timer, Scattered Over a Ukrainian Town

Published April 8, 2022

Bomb disposal technicians on the outskirts of Kharkiv, where many artillery shells have landed.Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Among the weapons Russia has used so far in the war is the PTM-1S land mine, a type of scatterable munition. These weapons are especially dangerous to civilians because they contain up to two dozen smaller mines that explode at intervals in the hours after a launch, turning ordinary streets into minefields. The use of scatterable land mines has largely been banned since 1997 by an international treaty signed by 164 countries, including Ukraine — but not Russia.

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