Russian army commander who ‘organised mass rape and murder’ in Bucha is unmasked as God-fearing Lieutenant Colonel recently blessed by Orthodox church – hours after Zelensky shocked the UN with horrifying images and demanded Nuremberg-style trials.
Russian commander dubbed the ‘Butcher of Bucha’ after being accused of committing war crimes in Putin’s war on Ukraine has been revealed as a veteran soldier blessed by the Orthodox Church late last year who claimed: ‘History shows that we fight most of our battles with our souls’.
Lieutenant Colonel Azatbek Omurbekov is commander of the 64th Separate Motorised Rifle Brigade involved in the occupation of Bucha, a town on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv which was occupied by Kremlin forces until their retreat last week.
Grisly images of what are claimed to be civilian massacres allegedly carried out by Russian forces in Bucha before they withdrew have stirred a global outcry in recent days, and prompted Western nations to expel dozens of Moscow’s diplomats and propose further sanctions, including a ban on coal imports from Russia.
ABC News’ Foreign Correspondent James Longman interviewed a local man called Mykola, who described Russian soldiers ‘killing all the men below 50’ and ‘giving him 20 minutes to bury his friends’. In a thread on Twitter, he added: ‘Russians asked for documentation when they got there. Anything in your papers that made them think you were a threat, and you were dead. He [Mykola] said they made the men strip off, looking for tattoos. Perhaps military tattoos. […] This whole town is a crime scene.’
The Kremlin has predictably denied the allegations, and claimed the images of civilians were ‘a crude forgery’ staged by the Ukrainians themselves.
Omurbekov, who is thought to be about 40 and was given a medal for outstanding service in 2014 by Dmitry Bulgakov, the deputy Russian Defence Minister, now stands accused of organising the alleged rape, pillage and murder of hundreds of Ukrainian civilians.
According to InformNapalm, a Ukrainian volunteer initiative initiative that monitors the activities of the Russian military and special services, Omurbekov was blessed by an Orthodox priest in November last year before his deployment to Ukraine.
Speaking after the service led by the Bishop of Khabarovsk, the commander, whose unit is based in a town outside Khabarovsk in the Russian Far East, said: ‘History shows that we fight most of our battles with our souls. Weapons are not the most important thing.’
Under international law, a military commander is responsible for any war crimes committed by his troops.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) rules on disputes between states, but cannot prosecute individuals. If the ICJ ruled against Russia, the UN Security Council would be responsible for enforcing that. But Moscow could veto any proposal to sanction it as one of the council’s five permanent members.
If investigators at the International Criminal Court (ICC) find evidence of atrocities carried out by Omurbekov’s men, the prosecutor will ask ICC judges to issue arrest warrants to bring individuals to trial in The Hague.
However, the court does not have its own police so relies on states to arrest suspects. And because Russia is not a member of the court, Putin will not extradite any suspects. Individuals suspected of war crimes who travel to another country could be arrested.