Ukraine’s General Prosecutor’s Office and Security Service (SBU) are yet to react to the UN report suggesting that Ukrainian volunteer soldiers were likely involved in murders of two civilians during the 2014 Battle of Ilovaisk.
The 32-page report, which is based on more than 80 interviews with victims and witnesses of the Ilovaisk battle, names these civilian victims as Valentyn Minich and Ihor Trufanov. Minich and Trufanov were two of the four civilians killed in the battle in Ilovaisk, 100 km north of Donetsk in August 2014. 366 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 429 injured during the battle that saw Ukrainians encircled by Russia-led separatists, then shot dead while trying to escape through a humanitarian corridor provided by separatists.
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According to the report, Trufanov, along with his wife and around 20 other civilians, was hiding in the basement of the Ilovaisk’s railroad machine station. On August 19, 2014, volunteer battalions Donbas and Dnipro-1 entered the premises, questioned the men and provided everyone with food and water. Six days later, one member of the battalions spotted that Trufanov had a cell phone and took the man away in an unknown direction. The next day, a man was found dead. Forensics identified this man as Trufanov.
Minich was also found dead on August 26. According to the witnesses UN spoke to, the man was hiding in the basement of Ilovaisk school No.14. The report says that on August 26, he was “reportedly informed that his house was on fire and went to check his property.” He then returned to the basement.
“The same day, Mr. Minich was summoned by a member of Donbas battalion, call sign Kat, who accused him of being a “spotter”. This was the last time he was seen alive,” the report reads.
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Fiona Frazer, the Head of the UN Human Rights Mission to Ukraine, has called for Ukraine to investigate the crimes against civilians “including those that were possibly committed by Ukrainian soldiers.”
“Four years have passed since the conflict in Ilovaisk, yet the conflict sides have taken limited steps with regards to the investigation of possible human rights violations, as well as abuse of international humanitarian law, especially those committed against civilians,” Frazer said during her speech at the Ukrainian Crisis Media Center on August 9. She did add that she understands the lack of progress could be due to the Ukrainian government having no access to the occupied areas.
General Staff Judicial Service Officer Colonel Yuriy Bobrov said that he sees no grounds in UN’s reports of crimes committed by Ukrainian soldiers.
“If you read the UN report carefully you’ll see that it states that these facts were established based on the accounts of eyewitnesses in the occupied territories. These facts are too ill-founded. In a document like this, if concrete facts are mentioned, they need to be checked for evidence. And to assert one or another fact based on one person’s statement is nonsensical,” Bobrov said.
He also mentioned that in order to investigate the cases of crimes committed by Ukrainian soldiers, which are mentioned in the UN report, Ukraine needs to regain control over the occupied territories.
“This effective investigation will be carried out after these territories are returned,” he said.