Bari inquiry into Ukraine war crimes, refugee accounts

13 May, 09:00

    (ANSA) - ROMA, 13 MAG - The Bari prosecutor's office has opened an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Russian soldiers against Ukrainian civilians.

    As part of the inquiry, numerous refugees arriving in Italy's southern province of Puglia have given their accounts.

    "Terrible stories," investigators have said, though the details are confidential.

    This could be the largest European inquiry into war crimes after the Nuremberg trial against Nazis; this time the defendant may be Russia, however, which had instead been on the side of the accusers in the trial following WWII.

    Gathering evidence of possible war crimes by Russian forces against the civilian population of Ukraine could be prosecutors' offices across all of Europe on the momentum built by Eurojust, which is coordinating with the International Criminal Court and working on this issue already.

    In Italy, Prosecutor Roberto Rossi and assistant prosecutor Francesco Giannella, coordinator of the anti-mafia and counterterrorism department, have opened an initial inquiry.

    For weeks the police - having been assigned this task by the prosecutor's office - have been gathering the tales of Ukrainian refugees arriving in Puglia.

    The aim is to document, through the testimonies of civilians that have fled from war, abuses and violence of all types committed by Russian soldiers against civilians.

    'Terrible tales' Numerous refugees have already told their stories to Bari investigators, especially those arriving by plane to Bari via Krakow in Poland.

    "Terrible stories," sources from among the investigators say, though details are strictly confidential.

    The documentation will be sent to the anti-mafia department and then to European judicial authorities so that they can "conserve, analyse, and archive the evidence of crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine".

    Individual crimes suffered by refugees and reported in Bari may also, however, result in the prosecutor's office initiating other cases.

    Most of the stories are from women who have fled Ukraine with their children, for the most part leaving their husbands and sons behind to fight if need be.

    Among the crimes for which charges may be issued after all the testimonies have been gather are - according to reports on refugees arriving in Puglia - sexual crimes as well as murder and other types of violence.

    The refugees tell the police about what they have experience personally as well as what they heard and saw in the cities besieged by Russian troops.

    The inquiry is for the time being against unknown perpetrators but with a precise possible charge: that of "international collaboration on crimes of aggression".

    All the investigations that will be opened by district prosecutors will be under the direction of the anti-mafia department and, at a higher level, Eurojust, the EU agency for cooperation in the justice sector, as part of the activities of an international investigative task force into alleged crimes committed in Ukraine.

    (Ukrainian refugees welcomed in Rome.PHOTO/ARCHIVE/ANSA/CLAUDIO PERI) (ANSA).

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