The prosecutor general of Ukraine said Monday that her office is investigating 5,800 cases of Russian war crimes, with “more and more” proceedings every day.
Speaking with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead,” Iryna Venediktova said Ukraine has identified more than 500 suspects in the sprawling probe, including Russian politicians, military personnel and propaganda agents “who wanted this war, who started this war and who continued this war.”
“We want to prosecute these war criminals in our Ukrainian courts, named by Ukraine,” Venediktova said, while acknowledging the role of the International Criminal Court.
Her comments come as shocking atrocities in Ukraine, allegedly at the hands of Russian forces, have amplified calls to pursue war crimes charges against Russian President Vladimir Putin. After images of at least 20 bodies strewn across the street in Bucha, Ukraine, emerged earlier this month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for an end to Russian “war crimes.”
Russia has denied any involvement in the incident, claiming – without evidence – that the atrocities in Bucha were staged, and part of a “planned media campaign.” But witnesses who have spoken to CNN said the carnage in the town began weeks ago, when it was occupied by Russian forces, and a video depicts Russian forces appearing to indiscriminately fire at a civilian.
Venediktova said Monday that she has made multiple visits to Bucha, where the community is “still exhuming the dead bodies from the mass grave.”
“It is not only war crimes. Now we can say – a lot of crimes against humanity,” she said.
The scenes out of the Kyiv suburb have drawn international outrage, with Western leaders – including President Joe Biden – calling for war crimes investigations and fresh sanctions against Russia.
The President said earlier this month that the images from Bucha warranted calling Putin a “war criminal,” adding, “but we have to gather the information. We have to continue to provide Ukraine with the weapons they need to continue the fight and we have to get all the details so this can be an actual – have a war crime trial.”
The top war crimes prosecutor for the International Criminal Court has traveled to Ukraine to investigate, and the US Embassy in Kyiv argued in the war’s opening days that specific Russian attacks constituted war crimes.
Anyone accused of a crime in the jurisdiction of the court can be tried. The court tries people, not countries, and focuses on those who hold the most responsibility: leaders and officials.
Still, investigations at the International Criminal Court take many years, and only a handful of convictions have ever been won.