Ukraine seeks justice for Russia’s war crimes and casts a digital net

Bucha, Ukraine

Ukrainian police officer Karina Kostiukevych says she, like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective Sherlock Holmes, considers herself married to her job.

However, while she tries to bring the perpetrators of the atrocities in Bucha to justice, she has no Dr. Watson to help her connect the dots. Instead, using a mix of crowdsourcing and technology, she is part of an online army.

Ms. Kostiukevych is the mastermind behind a channel on messaging service Telegram that is holding a magnifying glass against Russian brutality in the now infamous forest-lined suburb of Kiev. Once popular with tech workers and young families, Bucha became a killing ground as Russia tried to capture the capital. The failed attempt killed more than 1,750 people in the Kiev region, including victims of apparent war crimes Ukraine is determined to prosecute.

Why we wrote this

Russia’s atrocities take time, stamina and personnel to process. Digitally savvy Ukrainians have been zealous in their fight to bring Russians to justice for war crimes.

“When the Russians left Bucha and the first bodies started arriving, I saw how huge the scale was [of atrocities] so I created the Telegram channel and started posting pictures,” she says sitting on a wooden bench in a lush park near the multi-storey brick police station of Boyarka, another settlement in the Kiev region. “Absolutely every case posted on this Telegram channel is sent to the prosecutor’s office.”

Ms. Kostiukevych is a small link in a long chain of people setting the stage for justice in Ukraine. Digitally savvy Ukrainians have been zealous in their fight to hold Russia accountable for the atrocities committed since Moscow launched a full-scale war. A chatbot called e-Enemy allows Ukrainians to report Russian troop movements, and the government has a special website where citizens can report war crimes.

Karina Kostiukevych, pictured here in a park in Boyarka, a residential area near Bucha, Ukraine, launched a Telegram channel to document Russian atrocities and help people locate their dead relatives. The Boyarka police station where she works housed police officers from Bucha under Russian occupation.

Tasked with investigating and documenting war crimes too large for local Ukrainian law enforcement, non-governmental organizations and foreign investigators have joined the effort. The Russian occupation claimed at least 419 lives in Bucha. The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine says it has received reports of the unlawful killing of more than 300 men, women and children in Bucha and other settlements in northern Kiev, excluding soldiers killed in combat. By June 8, the mission had registered 4,266 civilian casualties across the country.