Sergey Kolotsey, commander of the military division of Russian National Guard in Ulyanovsk Oblast, has been put on international wanted list for mass murder and torture in Bucha, a town to the west from Kyiv that was occupied by Russia for several weeks in spring.
Several countries have recognized the Bucha war crimes as genocide, with U.S. President Joe Biden himself describing the atrocities as “genocide” in public comments. Similar language has been used by the Canadian government in its public communications.
The Kolotsey case is being overseen by Kyiv Oblast Prosecutors Office, which commented on it for Ukrinform, a state-owned news agency in Kyiv.
“Right now, he is on the wanted list, including the international level,” says a statement by Kyiv Oblast Prosecutors Office.
“We’re assessing the degree of his involvement in the mass murders in Bucha.”
The pre-trial stage of the Kolotsey case will involve more investigative work. Prosecutors suspect the Russian National Guard officer was involved in extremely violent actions against the civilians in Bucha, breaking the rules and traditions of war. Another track of the investigative work will assess Kolotsey’s involvement in a number of homicides.
The investigation is obtaining information from witnesses, several expert assessments, including expertise in facial recognition to identify the Russian soldiers involved in the Bucha war crimes. More work is planned to firmly establish the case against Kolotsey, prosecutors say.
The prosecutors investigating the case have already established the basic facts: Kolotsey, supported by other Russian soldiers, murdered at least four civilians on Yablunska street in Bucha. Their bodies were found nearby with their hands tied behind their backs and with signs that they had been subjected to extremely violent torture.
Moreover, Kolotsey was putting physical pressure on a man who lives in Bucha, persuading him to plead guilty for resisting against the Russian invasion. To make this civilian recognize own “guilt”, he was beaten up – sometimes with fists and feet, sometimes with knifes and other weapons.
Then, he was tortured further – Russians made him smell dead bodies. Finally, Kolotsey told the man he was going to kill him and fired a shot with his gun close to the man’s ear, according to information obtained during the investigation.
Besides physical violence, Kolotsey conducted several acts of looting. He used postal service of neighboring Belarus to send to Russia some of the things he had stolen.
In early May, Kolotsey became the first suspect of the Bucha atrocities to have his identity confirmed. He was then put on an official list of suspects in the case. Responding to this, Kolotsey denied the allegations and said he doesn’t serve in the Russian National Guard, and hasn’t been outside Belarus for two years.
After the Russian army retreated from Kyiv Oblast, evidence of their war crimes in Bucha, Irpin and other localities around the Kyiv-Zhytomyr highway was made public and gained global attention. Hundreds of dead bodies of innocent civilians were found in several villages and towns.
In Bucha alone, at least 412 dead bodies were found, 90% of them murdered in an organized way. Overall, prosecutors found at least 1,300 dead civilians on the territory of Kyiv Oblast after Russian army’s retreat from this northern Ukrainian region.
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, said the Bucha massacre was a violent act based on clearly aggressive intentions. Anatoliy Fedoruk, the mayor of Bucha, said the Russian soldiers had lists of local residents that they were planning to kill.
In its turn, Russian Defense Ministry denies committing any war crimes in Bucha. Kremlin-backed media carried out its own propaganda campaign, accusing Ukraine of making up information, including photos, about atrocities in Bucha. Accusations against Ukraine about producing fake news about the war have several times been repeated by high-ranking Russian officials.