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‘Butcher of Bucha’ was blessed by the Orthodox Church before ‘war crimes’

‘Butcher of Bucha’ was blessed by the Orthodox Church before ‘war crimes’
Ukraine activist group claims to identify Russian commander who led military unit to Bucha

An activist group from Ukraine has claimed to have identified the Russian commander who led a military unit accused of committing war crimes in Bucha, the Kyiv suburb where mass graves and dead bodies of civilians were discovered last week.

InformNapalm claimed in a statement on Twitter and Telegram that 40-year-old Lt Col Azatbek Omurbekov had led the 64th Separate Motorised Rifle Brigade, which Ukraine’s defence ministry has accused of war crimes.

The military commander, who has been dubbed the “Butcher of Bucha” by several outlets, was blessed by an Orthodox priest in November last year, reported The Times newspaper.

InformNapalm dubbed the commander a “military villain” and shared his personal information, including his home address, email and telephone number.

The Independent could not verify the authenticity of the activist group’s claims. There has also been no official statement on the Russian commander issued either by Ukrainian or Russian authorities as of now.

“History shows that we fight most of our battles with our souls,” the commander was quoted as saying after the service by The Times.

The service had been led by an Orthodox priest, the bishop of Khabarovsk.

“Weapons are not the most important thing. The church is a place where we can take Communion and prepare for the coming events,” he said.

“With the blessing of the Almighty, we hope to achieve the same things that our forebears achieved.”

Mr Omurbekov has been awarded a medal for outstanding service in 2014 by Dmitry Bulgakov, the deputy Russian defense minister, The Times reported.

Growing evidence has emerged from Bucha of large-scale atrocities, as hundreds of bodies of civilians have been found.

Many bodies have been found in mass graves, while others have been left rotting in bags or in the open on the city’s streets.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky earlier described the scene in Bucha as evidence of “genocide” and “war crimes”, with dead bodies having been “found in barrels, basements, strangled, tortured.”

Oleksiy Reznikov, Ukraine’s defence minister, termed alleged Russian actions in Bucha as “utterly inhuman” and likened them to Nazis, The Times reported.

On Monday, satellite images revealed a 45-foot-long trench in Bucha, the site of a mass grave.

Russia has dismissed war crime accusations in Bucha as “false allegations”, while Moscow’s state media has carried broadcasts denouncing the accusations as a hoax.

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