Ukraine prosecutor says probes Russian killing of civilians in Bakhmut
Feb 16 (Reuters) - Russian Grad rockets and barrel artillery slammed into a residential district in the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut on Thursday, killing three men and two women and wounding nine more, Ukraine's prosecutor general said, adding it was being investigated as a war crime.
"Five dead and nine wounded due to shelling of Bakhmut by the invaders," read a caption under blurred images of the victims shared on Telegram by the office of the prosecutor general. "Criminal proceedings have been initiated."
An investigation had determined that Russia fired barrel artillery and Grad rockets at Bakhmut on Feb. 16, the office said. "The occupiers' shells once again hit the city's residential quarter."
There was no immediate word from Moscow on the allegation that civilians were killed, and Reuters could not independently confirm the battlefield report.
Russia says it strives to avoid injuring civilians. A current focus of its forces is Bakhmut in Donetsk, one of two regions making up the Donbas, the country's industrial heartland now partially occupied by Russia.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said the deaths showed it was imperative that all remaining civilians in Bakhmut leave what was once a city of 70,000 residents. Staying put, she said, placed them in danger and created difficulties for soldiers and emergency workers.
"To be honest, I am very surprised by what 6,000 civilians are still doing there," Vereshchuk wrote on Telegram. "I appeal to civilians now in Bakhmut -- if you are practical, law-abiding and patriotic citizens, you must evacuate immediately."
The prosecutor general's office said the regional office in Donetsk was leading pre-trial investigations and criminal proceedings under the section of Ukraine's criminal code that covers violations of the laws and customs of war.
Germany's prosecutor general, Peter Frank, said in a Feb. 4 newspaper interview that an international judicial process was needed for the conflict in Ukraine, and that his country had started collecting evidence of war crimes in March. The pieces of evidence were in the "three-digit range," he told Welt am Sonntag.
Ukraine wants a special tribunal to prosecute Russian military and political leaders it blames for the war. The International Criminal Court has launched its own investigation into alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes, but lacks jurisdiction to prosecute aggression in Ukraine.
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