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Ukraine’s general prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into the deaths of 10 people who were allegedly shot by Russian forces while waiting in a line for bread in the northern city of Chernihiv.
Graphic photos and video showed what appeared to be lifeless bodies lying in the street. The bodies themselves have been blurred by the prosecutor’s office and media outlets, including Global News.
The office said the civilians were shot around 10 a.m. local time Wednesday near a grocery store, and that more information was being gathered.
It said the incident was a likely violation of international law and a potential war crime.
The incident was also reported by the head of the regional administration, Vyacheslav Chaus, and the U.S. embassy in Ukraine.
“Such horrific attacks must stop. We are considering all available options to ensure accountability for any atrocity crimes in Ukraine,” the U.S. embassy said on Twitter.
Russian defence ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said the report and footage of alleged victims that had appeared in various Ukrainian outlets was a “hoax launched by the Ukrainian Security Service.”
“No Russian soldiers are or have been in Chernihiv. All units are outside of the Chernihiv city limits, blocking roads, and are not conducting any offensive action,” he said.
Chernihiv has been besieged for days by Russian attacks, including airstrikes and shelling, and is completely surrounded by Russian forces that are occupying the northern area between the city and the Belarusian border.
Much of the city has been without heat or water since last week, according to local officials. Repeated efforts to evacuate civilians through humanitarian corridors have been interrupted by attacks.
Separately on Wednesday, Ukraine’s emergencies service said rescue workers had found the bodies of five people, including three children, in the ruins of a dormitory building damaged by shelling in the city.
New satellite images taken Wednesday by space technology company Maxar and obtained by Global News show burning homes and a damaged Olympic sports training facility in Chernihiv.
Maxar’s latest images also showed what appeared to be Russian self-propelled howitzers and multiple rocket launchers deployed outside the city.
Moscow has denied it is targeting civilians, insisting its “special military operation” is focused on demilitarizing Ukraine. Eyewitness evidence, however, has shown missiles hitting residential buildings, hospitals and schools.
The prosecutor’s office says it has documented nearly 1,600 potential war crimes and violations of international law since the Russian invasion began three weeks ago. It says 103 children have been killed as of Wednesday, with another 113 injured, including in Chernihiv.
The United Nations estimates more than 600 civilians have been killed in Ukraine, with thousands more injured.
On Wednesday, the International Court of Justice — the judicial arm of the U.N. — ordered Russia to pull its troops out of Ukraine after finding Russian claims of genocide against eastern separatists was not a valid justification for the invasion.
— with files from Reuters