UN finds Russia responsible for 'vast majority' of potential war crimes in Ukraine

The United Nations headquarters building is pictured with a UN logo in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., March 1, 2022. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

ZURICH, Oct 18 (Reuters) - A United Nations commission found Russian forces were responsible for the "vast majority" of human rights violations in the early weeks of the war in Ukraine, including attacks on civilians that were potential war crimes.

In a report on events in four northern provinces, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine found that Russian forces had indiscriminately shelled areas they were trying to capture and "attacked civilians trying to flee".

It also found abuses committed by Ukraine, including two cases of people who were out of action who were shot, wounded or tortured.

"Russian armed forces are responsible for the vast majority of the violations identified, including war crimes. Ukrainian forces have also committed international humanitarian law violations in some cases, including two incidents that qualify as war crimes," the U.N. Human Rights Council said in a summary of the report.

The report covered events in Ukraine's northern Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Sumy regions in late February and March 2022, following Russia's Feb. 24 invasion.

All four of those provinces have since been fully recaptured by Ukraine, after Russia's assault on the capital failed. Ukrainian forces that recaptured areas near Kyiv found scores of bodies in the streets and mass burial sites of people killed under Russian occupation.

Moscow denies deliberately targeting civilians, though it has flattened villages, towns and cities across Ukraine during what it initially called a "special military operation" to disarm its neighbour. Kyiv has said it will punish abuses committed by its own forces but believes the number of such incidents is small.

Reporting by Michael Shields Editing by Peter Graff

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