Ukraine identifies Russian war crimes suspect from CNN report

Ukraine identifies Russian war crimes suspect from CNN report

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Kyiv, Ukraine
CNN

It was a chilling shootout: Russian soldiers were filmed killing unarmed Ukrainian civilians as they walked away from an encounter on the outskirts of the capital Kyiv.

CNN first reported on the shooting in May after obtaining exclusive surveillance video of what is being investigated as a war crime, a shooting targeting civilians.

Now Ukrainian prosecutors say they have informed Russia that their preliminary investigation has targeted one of the Russian perpetrators they believe to be responsible.

The Bucha prosecutor’s office in the Kyiv region says exclusive CNN reporting helped identify the Russian soldier.

Prosecutors say the suspect is Nikolay Sergeevich Sokovikov, adding that Russia has been made aware of his charges of “violation of the laws and customs of war” and “intentional murder”.

CNN asked the Russian Defense Ministry for comment but did not hear back. CNN also asked the Russian MOD to respond to our initial report in May and never received a response.

In newly obtained footage of the incident obtained by CNN this week, two soldiers can clearly be seen shooting at something next to a business they just passed. Other videos of the incident reveal that their target was two unarmed civilians, shot in the back immediately after what appears to be a quiet conversation with the soldiers.

The incident happened in March outside a car dealership in a village near Kyiv, as Russian forces attempted to take the Ukrainian capital at the start of the invasion.

Sokovikov, along with another unidentified serviceman, inflicted at least 12 gunshot wounds on civilians, according to Ukrainian prosecutors. They were part of a group of soldiers who then ransacked the business and loaded stolen property into a car marked “Tank Special Forces RUS,” prosecutors said in a statement.

CNN previously identified the victims. One was the owner of the looted dealership, whose family does not want to be named. The other was Leonid Oleksiyovych Plyats, a 68-year-old grandfather who worked there as a caretaker.

CCTV footage obtained by CNN shows the suspect inside the compound, which the group of Russian soldiers looted.

In addition to the murder, surveillance video shows more unprofessional behavior from the group of five soldiers, who are seen on camera drinking and toasting. The group was identified as part of the invasion force by their uniforms, analysis of who controlled which area at the time, and witness statements. The images have been verified by CNN.

Prosecutors will not reveal exactly how they identified this particular soldier. But CNN has already reported on part of the process used by Ukrainian authorities – facial recognition technology.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation uploads images of suspects to software that cleans social media websites for matching photos. Once investigators find a match, they corroborate it with friends and family on the suspects’ social media.

Identifying this latest war crimes suspect took months, prosecutors said. While the preliminary investigation is ongoing, it is at least a step towards justice for the families of the victims.

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