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The so-called "Butcher of Bucha" is a veteran soldier who was blessed by the Orthodox Church a matter of weeks before Putin's invasion, it can be revealed.
Lieutenant Colonel Azatbek Omurbeko is accused by Ukraine of committing war crimes, including mass rape and murder of civilians, during Putin's invasion of the country.
As commander of the 64th Separate Motorised Rifle Brigade, he led the occupation of Bucha, a town on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv which was occupied by Kremlin forces until their retreat last week.
Grisly images of what are claimed to be civilian massacres allegedly carried out by Russian troops before they withdrew have stirred a global condemnation, reports MailOnline.
The Kremlin has denied the allegations, and claimed the images of civilians were "a crude forgery" staged by the Ukrainians themselves.
Omurbekov, who is thought to be about 40 and was given a medal for outstanding service in 2014 by Dmitry Bulgakov, the deputy Russian Defence Minister, now stands accused of organising the alleged rape, pillage and murder of hundreds of Ukrainian civilians.
The alleged atrocities in Bucha have prompted Western nations to expel dozens of Moscow's diplomats and propose further sanctions, including a ban on coal imports from Russia.
Locals have described Russian soldiers "killing all men below 50" and the town of Bucha becoming a "crime scene", with mass graves and a "torture room" uncovered.
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Speaking shortly after he was blessed by the Bishop of Khabarovsk at a service in November, Omurbeko said: "History shows that we fight most of our battles with our souls. Weapons are not the most important thing."
Under international law, a military commander is responsible for any war crimes committed by his troops.
But even if a warrant was issued for Omurbekov's arrest, bringing him to justice could be difficult as Russia is not a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shocked the UN into silence after accusing Russia of committing "genocide" in Ukraine, comparing Moscow's military to the Islamic State terror group and demanding that Putin be brought to justice for his alleged atrocities in a video address to the Security Council.
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Sharing harrowing pictures of charred bodies, civilians shot dead and mass graves taken in Bucha, Irpin and Mariupol, Zelensky said that civilians had been shot in the back of the head after being tortured, blown up with grenades in their apartments and crushed to death by tanks while in cars.
"They cut off limbs, cut their throats. Women were raped and killed in front of their children. Their tongues were pulled out only because their aggressor did not hear what they wanted to hear from them," he said.
"Anyone who has given criminal orders and carried them out by killing our people will be brought before the tribunal which should be similar to the Nuremberg tribunals."
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Ukrainian officials claim the bodies of at least 410 civilians have been found in towns around Kyiv that were recaptured from Russian forces and a "torture chamber" was discovered in Bucha.
The Kremlin denounced the images as fake and suggested the scenes were staged by the Ukrainians, but high-resolution satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies showed that many of the bodies had been lying in the open for weeks, during the time Russian forces were in the town.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed the images from Bucha revealed 'a deliberate campaign to kill, to torture, to rape, to commit atrocities'. He said the reports were 'more than credible' and the US and other countries will seek to hold the culprits accountable.
- Russia Ukraine war
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