• Russian paratroopers executed several captured Ukrainian fighters in the occupied city of Bucha in early March
  • The bodies of the victims were left lying in a courtyard for nearly a month
  • The killings may turn into a "strong case for war crimes prosecution," a former U.S. ambassador says

Russian soldiers, during their occupation of a Ukrainian city, rounded up local captives and led them to an area where the prisoners would later be found dead, recently obtained videos showed.

Several Russian paratroopers took a total of nine people at gunpoint to an office building at Bucha's 144 Yablunska Street on March 4, The New York Times reported.

The captives, identified as eight Ukrainian fighters and a resident who gave them food, had been forced out of the latter's home before being made to march around 300 yards to the office that the Russians turned into a makeshift base and field hospital, according to the outlet.

Russian soldiers then forced the prisoners, who included delivery driver Denys Rudenko, to the ground, videos captured by a security camera and witnesses in a nearby house showed.

While one of the videos ended there, witnesses claimed that the Russian troops immediately shot one of the prisoners, 28-year-old Vitaliy Karpenko, after the captives were forced to kneel down.

The Russians also fatally shot another man, Andriy Verbovyi, after he was taken inside the Russians' makeshift base and questioned.

One of the men later told the Russians that he and the others were fighters, which resulted in him being let go, according to Ivan Skyba, a survivor of the alleged executions. Ukrainian authorities are now reportedly investigating the freed man for “high treason.”

Skyba and the remaining captives were then taken to the courtyard on the side of the office building, where the body of another dead man was already lying, the 43-year-old claimed. The dead man Skyba saw was identified as Andriy Matviychuk, 37, a missing fighter who was shot in the head, according to his death certificate.

Russian soldiers led the captives out of sight before gunshots rang out, a witness who lives in front of the office building at 144 Yablunska Street said.

"I fell down and I pretended to be dead. I didn’t move and didn’t breathe. It was cold outside and you could see people’s breath," Skyba, who was shot in the side, recalled.

Skyba remained on the ground as the Russians allegedly fired another volley at injured men who were still moving before running away 15 minutes later when he could no longer hear the soldiers' voices.

Dead bodies, including that of Rudenko, were captured on video by a drone the next day on March 5. Two Russian soldiers stood guard beside them, according to The Times.

The bodies of the men killed in the parking lot and the office building, together with six other victims, were left lying in the courtyard for nearly a month.

Left behind supplies indicated that the building may have been occupied by the 104th and 234th Airborne Assault Regiments of the Russian Airborne Forces.

The execution of the captured Ukrainian fighters and homeowner "is the kind of incident that could become a strong case for war crimes prosecution," according to Stephen Rapp, former U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues.

The commanders of the soldiers who allegedly shot the prisoners may also be charged if they had knowledge of the killings and failed to act to prevent or punish the acts, Rapp said.

Ukraine has identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes that were committed during Russia's invasion, a report by the BBC said.

Ukraine's flag is see beside new graves for people killed during Russia's invasion of Ukraine, at a cemetery in Bucha Kyiv region, Ukraine April 28, 2022.
Ukraine's flag is see beside new graves for people killed during Russia's invasion of Ukraine, at a cemetery in Bucha Kyiv region, Ukraine April 28, 2022. Reuters / ZOHRA BENSEMRA