War crimes in Bucha: Russian defector talks about allegations against former unit



CNN

Nikita Chibrin says he still remembers his fellow Russian soldiers fleeing after allegedly raping two Ukrainian women during their deployment northwest of Kyiv in March.

“I saw them running, then I knew they were rapists. They raped a mother and a daughter,” he said. Their commanders, Chibrin said, shrugged their shoulders when they learned of the rapes. The alleged rapists were beaten, he says, but never fully punished for their crimes. .

“They were never imprisoned. He just shot. So: ‘Go!’ They were simply dismissed from the war. This is. ”

Chibrin is a former soldier from the Russian city of Yakutsk who says he served in the 64th Separate Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade, the notorious Russian military unit accused of war crimes during its offensive on Bucha, Borodianka and other towns and villages north of Kyiv.

He deserted from the Russian army in September and fled to Europe via Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Troops from the Khybrin brigade were branded war criminals by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry in April after mass graves containing slain civilians and corpses were discovered in the street following the withdrawal of Russian forces from the region from Kyiv

Chibrin’s military documents, seen by CNN, show that his commander was Azatbek Omurbekov, the officer in charge of the 64th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade. Omurbekov, known as the “Butcher of Bucha” is under sanctions from the European Union and the United Kingdom. The United States has sanctioned the entire brigade.

The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the mass killings, while repeating baseless claims that the images of civilian bodies were fake.

In a move that sparked outrage around the world, Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded the unit an honorary military title and praised it for its “heroism” and “bold actions”.

Chibrin said he saw none of the alleged heroism, but many of the crimes.

Speaking to CNN in a European country where he has sought asylum, he detailed some of the crimes he says he witnessed and heard about, and said he would be willing to testify against his unit before an international criminal court. He assures that he himself did not commit any crime.

“I didn’t see killings, but I saw rapists running away, chased (by higher-ranking members of the unit) because they committed rapes,” he said.

Nikita Chibrin in his military uniform.

He also said the unit had a “direct order to assassinate” anyone who shared information about the unit’s positions, whether military or civilian.

“If someone had a phone, we were allowed to shoot,” he said. He claims there is little doubt that some of the men in the 64th Separate Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade were capable of killing unarmed civilians.

“There are maniacs who enjoy killing a man. These maniacs appeared there,” he said.

Chibrin also described widespread looting, with Russian soldiers taking computers, jewelry and anything else they liked.

“They didn’t hide it at all. A lot of my unit, when we left Lipovka and Andreevka at the end of March, they took cars, vehicles, they took civilian cars and sold them to Belarus,” he said. “The mentality is that if you steal something, you’re good. If no one catches you, good! If you see something that’s expensive and you steal it and you don’t get caught, you’re good.”

As for the unit’s commanders, he said they were well aware of the alleged rapes and killings and looting, but showed little interest in seeking justice.

“They reacted like, ‘Whatever.’ To happen. And what? ‘ In fact, there was no reaction,” he said. “Discipline goes [down the drain]there is no discipline.”

CNN has reached out to Russia’s Defense Ministry for comment on the allegations, but has not heard back.

Chibrin has no doubt that Russia will eventually lose its war against Ukraine, but not until many more lives are lost.

“Because Russia will not stop until great blood is spilled, until everyone dies. Soldiers are cannon fodder for them. They don’t respect them,” he said.

Having seen the fighting firsthand, he said the equipment Russian soldiers have is no match for the weapons Ukraine has access to. He says that while Ukraine is receiving some of the most advanced weapons available from its Western allies, the Russian military relies on Soviet-era equipment used during the 1980s war in Afghanistan.

“Of course, Russia will lose. Because the whole world is supporting Ukraine. To think that they (the Russians) will win is stupid,” he said. “They thought they would occupy Kyiv in three days. What a day it is now [of the war]? 260th? They thought they would come to Ukraine and meet flowers. But they were told to fuck off and threw Molotov cocktails at him.”

Military documents of Nikita Chibrin.

The men in his unit were also woefully underprepared for combat, according to Chibrin. He said the training his unit received consisted of commanders giving them a gun, a target and 5,000 rounds of ammunition.

“You keep shooting and then you can go. Nobody was doing anything. There was no real training. I worked on a computer, in the office, I worked as a lawnmower…,” he said.

The lack of training became apparent once in Ukraine. The same men who boasted of being “like Rambo” before being deployed came back broken, he said. “Those who said they would easily shoot the Ukrainians, when they came back from the front line… they couldn’t even talk to me. They saw the war, they saw the defeat, they saw their [fellow] fighters killed, they saw corpses. They noticed, but they couldn’t run away.”

He said many of the men were poorly trained and most had no idea where they were going.

“It was a big lie. It was military training with the Belarusian army. And they lied to us. On February 24, they just said that everyone will go to war,” Chibrin said, adding that he initially refused to go there

“The first thing I said was, ‘Commander, screw you, I don’t want to go to war,’ and he said, ‘Hey, you’re going to be in big trouble, you’re going to jail, and your family will. i have big problems… and he attacked me and put me in a special vehicle and closed the door. And I couldn’t open [it] from the inside So I went to Ukraine.”

Chibrin spent months in Ukraine, off and on. When the 64th Separate Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade withdrew in late March from the area northwest of Kyiv, following the failed offensive there, he and his unit returned to Belarus.

He said he suffered a back injury and went to a military hospital in Russia, but was forced to return to Ukraine in May. This time he was sent to the Kharkiv region in eastern Ukraine, and then spent some time in the forests around Izyum.

That’s when he finally found an opportunity to escape, he said. He noticed that the commanders of other units were leaving the area for Russia in a truck and jumped into it.

“I’m jumping on it [the bed of the truck] and I see, oh, other guys, who are also leaving Ukraine. And they say we don’t want to [fight the] war, we paid money to the commander (for driving). And I’m waiting and waiting and then we’re near the Russian border and the car is stopped and the guys are jumping and I’m jumping too. And I go to the border with Russia and say that I need medical help, “he said.

Once back in Russia, Chibrin said he spent nearly a month in the hospital, most of which he was bedridden with terrible back pain. But he said he was unable to get proper treatment. “They said if he wanted to go to a special sanatorium, he had to sign a document saying he was going back to the war,” he said.

Refusing to sign, Chibrin said he was preparing to submit paperwork to cancel his military contract when the Russian government announced a partial mobilization in September.

“And my friends told me I had to hide. ‘You have to find a place and hide, your contract won’t be canceled by the mobilization,’ he said. Knowing he needed to get away from the as far as possible from the far eastern city of Khabarovsk where he was stationed, Chibrin first fled across Russia to St. Petersburg and then took a train to Belarus. Once there he was able to find an intermediary who help him reach Kazakhstan from where he eventually traveled to his current location.

Now he is determined to speak out about the events he witnessed in Ukraine, even writing an anti-war song. “Heaves of souls, hundreds of bodies of lost people. Hundreds of mothers without children”, says the choir.

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