A unit of Chechen fighters called the Kadyrovtsy slaughtered and wounded Russian troops near the city of Bucha, where an alleged torture chamber was operated.
“They would bring heavily wounded Russian soldiers to a big hospital they had there, and those who were very heavily wounded, they would just shoot them,” Artem Hurin said. “No one other than the Kadyrovtsy did this.”
Hurim is a member of the city council of Irprin and a deputy commander in the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Force. He was one of the first people to visit the city of Bucha after the Russians fled the area. There, he got a chance to hear from residents about the atrocities the Russians did to civilians and their own soldiers.
Eyewitnesses claim that the Chechen group has been executing Ukrainians since March 5. Bucha Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk described bodies with gunshot wounds and their hands tied behind their backs using a white cloth. This was earlier reported by SOFREP as well, where we obtained exclusive photos from Bucha showing evidence of people being tied up and shot behind the head.
“They didn’t allow them to do anything. There they just killed people through binoculars, for example,” Hurin said, talking about how residents were just trying to get food and supplies. “They just shot them.”
Chechen unit, "Kadyrovtsy" in Mariupol, proud of their destruction. The speaker: "an order to destroy and purge Mariupol is fulfilled. The order of president Putin is fulfilled, the order of Kadyrov is fulfilled". – they admit, the order was to "destroy and purge" pic.twitter.com/6KPyf12Db1
— UkraineWorld (@ukraine_world) April 21, 2022
New drone imagery shows Russian forces firing on a cyclists in Bucha, on Yablunska Street at 50.54148, 30.228898, where multiple corpses have been filmed and photographed https://t.co/1GPF9NJjcB pic.twitter.com/CBR3DnMyyq
— Bellingcat (@bellingcat) April 5, 2022
Hurim was also able to confirm reports of torture chambers in a former glass factory in Yablonska Street, Bucha. The existence of the base location was first brought up by Ukrainian Human Rights Ombudsman, Lyudmila Denisova.
“In the city of Bucha on Yablonska Street, 144 racists set up a real torture chamber. According to the survivors, the Kadyrov headquarters was here. They shot people in the face, burned their eyes, cut off body parts, and tortured to death not only adults but also children,” Denisova wrote on Telegram.
Autopsies on corpses collected from the cities of Irpin, Bucha, and Borodyanka reveal that some were tortured before being killed. Some had bullet wounds in the back, a sign of being executed, while others were too mutilated to even identify.
“We already have a few cases which suggest that these women had been raped before being shot to death,” Ukrainian forensic doctor Vladyslav Perovskyi said. “We can’t give more details as my colleagues are still collecting the data, and we still have hundreds of bodies to examine.”
Perovskyi and his team are examining around 15 bodies each day, many of which have been horribly disfigured.“There are many burnt bodies and heavily disfigured bodies that are just impossible to identify,” he said. “The face could be smashed into pieces, you can’t put it back together. Sometimes there’s no head at all.”
An Extremely Violent Bunch
Mounting evidence gathered by Kyiv Oblast police suggests that the Kadyrovtsy detachments that were in Bucha were likely one of the perpetrators of the atrocities that happened in the area.
Bucha resident Ihor Yuschenko recalled witnessing two pedestrians being killed after a column of Russian soldiers opened fire on his street. He added that the column included members of the Kadyrovtsy. He identified them through their black garb, used Islamic expressions, and the name of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov printed on their body armor.
“Many Chechen soldiers penetrated this street to kill Ukrainian civilian people,” said Yuschenko, who recalled another instance where another group of Chechen fighters shot up a car driving down the street, killing the passengers.
“It’s simply a war crime what they have done here,” Yuschenko exclaimed. “This is not war.”
As of April 28th, around 1,150 civilian remains have been found in the area around Kyiv. 50% to 70% of them had bullet wounds from small-caliber guns. In Bucha alone, over 400 bodies were recovered.
Independent security analyst Harold Chambers said that this type of violence comes as no surprise and is part of zachistki – a Russian military term for house-to-house clearing operations that they mastered during the Chechen Wars that lasted until the early 2000s.
“It plays into their specialty of targeting civilian populations, and from the stories we’ve already heard out of Bucha, that’s very much what was going on,” Chambers said.
The Kadyrovtsy is part of Kadyrov’s private militia. They began as a separatist group, first led by Kadyrov’s father, Akhmad Kadyrov, who fought in the First and Second Chechen Wars. Even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the group has been accused of serious human rights violations.
After the assassination of his father, Kadyrov assumed leadership and cooperated with Moscow, who allowed him to gain a tight hold on Chechnya. The Kadyrovtsy are known to provide support to the Kremlin’s forces and were involved in the Russian military campaigns in Lebanon, Georgia, and Syria.
The group is promoted by Russian propaganda as a formidable fighting force on the battlefield. However, reports on the ground describe the opposite. Several observers have highlighted impracticalities and poor performance.
For instance, the black garb is not an effective camouflage in the Ukrainian forest, and some fighters were seen wearing combat boots from a luxury brand. Kadyrov’s fighters are not well trained in conventional warfare and were sent to unfamiliar terrain filled with seasoned Ukrainian defenders. Thus far they seem to have been employed mostly in rear areas behind the front in mopping up operations and performing internal security duties to free up other Russian troops for the fighting. In performing these rear area duties their presence is marked by now widespread claims of atrocities committed against civilians.
As the Kadyrovtsy comprise Chechen leader Kadyrov’s own security force to ensure his grip on power in his country, deploying them in mass to Ukraine would leave Kadyrov vulnerable to internal forces that could use their absence to create unrest and possibly rebellion. So Kadyrov probably limits the number of these units in Ukraine at any one time and rotates them regularly to give as many as possible some combat experience as soldiers.
Online the Kadyrovtsy has been widely mocked as the “TikTok Battalion” because of their numerous self-glorifying posts on the social media app, many of which feature poorly faked scenes of them in engaging in combat.