“We barricaded the windows with bricks when shells could be heard nearby,” says Tetyana Kun of the start of the Russian invasion. Six months later, the wounds are far from healed. The 65-year-old with thick gray hair tells us in tears about the days of the Russian occupation of Bucha near Kyiv. Now she lives in Berlin, where she fled from the horrors of war in the spring.

“One day – I think it was March 10 – I saw through a crack in the window a car convoy with white flags and the inscription ‘Children’ driving down the street,” says Tetjana. The next day she ventured into the city for the first time in weeks of war, as the convoy had given her hopes of an evacuation. But what Tetjana saw on a westbound arterial road shocked her. “The convoy that I saw the day before was completely shot up,” she says.

“There were overturned cars, engines, wheels with burned tires. There were pillows, blankets, children’s clothes, rucksacks and suitcases with holes in them. There was a lot of blood on the cars,” said the woman. A Russian soldier ran towards them from a roadblock. “We shoot because we don’t know who is in these cars,” he told her when asked what happened to the convoy of dozens of cars.

Until her escape on March 19, Tetyana witnessed many of the crimes committed by the Russian occupiers, which the whole world learned about in the media after the Ukrainian army liberated Bucha in early April.

Julia Gneuss from the Chair of Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure Law at the University of Potsdam believes that Tetjana should definitely report to German officials what she saw. “The investigations into war crimes in Ukraine are structural investigations. All information is first absorbed in order to then get a puzzle that is as detailed as possible,” the lawyer told DW.

In June, the Bundestag decided to make changes to the budget of the Federal Ministry of Justice in order to finance the increase in personnel intended to investigate suspected war crimes by the Russian army in Ukraine. “We will collect and systematize all evidence of war crimes,” said the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office, which is coordinating the investigation. Law enforcement agencies have already received hundreds of testimonies from Ukrainian refugees suggesting war crimes.

Whether hundreds of statements can be considered a success is difficult to say with around one million refugees in the country. Tetjana has not yet testified to the German authorities. “I don’t know who to turn to. And how should I testify? I don’t speak the language,” said the Ukrainian.

The Federal Criminal Police Office tries to allay fears of such difficulties with the help of brochures that are distributed among refugees. There it says that you can testify at any police station in Germany. Witnesses could also fill out questionnaires in Ukrainian, on the basis of which a decision would be made about a comprehensive interrogation. “The police will provide an interpreter for this,” emphasizes the public prosecutor’s office.

Germany implemented the norms of international humanitarian law in its own legislation 20 years ago. Since then, those responsible for war crimes, no matter where they are committed, can be sentenced to life imprisonment by a German court in particularly serious cases. War crimes include attacks by soldiers on the civilian population and civilian infrastructure such as residential areas, hospitals, train stations and schools, but also murder and torture of civilians or prisoners of war, extrajudicial executions and rapes, and the use of weapons prohibited by international conventions, such as cluster bombs or chemical weapons.

In Bucha, Tetyana Kun saw how Russian soldiers threatened local people with weapons and robbed them. “Once a tank stopped at a butcher shop in the center of town. The soldiers got out and started firing in different directions while others carried away the loot. They shot at the surrounding windows, maybe so that nobody would take pictures or film from there,” the woman suspects.

However, the most terrifying scene presented itself to her on Jablunska Street on the southern outskirts of the city. Tetyana was born there and spent her childhood there. There she saw that entire families had been shot in their own gardens. “On the street there were not only dead bodies, but also dead dogs – they even shot at dogs,” says Tetiana. According to the city, more than 400 residents were killed in Bucha.

Court hearings in the absence of the accused are not provided for by law in Germany. In order to be able to convict the Russians responsible for the atrocities in Bucha, they would have to be in Germany, which is unlikely. So do the German investigations only have a symbolic meaning?

“Normally, the strategy is that Germany should not become a safe haven for criminals of international law,” says lawyer Julia Gneuss, emphasizing that the more statements there are from refugees, the better the prospects for solving crimes. Even if a suspect is arrested anywhere in Europe, authorities say Germany is ready to pass on testimonies from refugees to help convict war criminals.

Adaptation from the Ukrainian: Markian Ostapchuk

Author: Eugene Theise

According to their own statements, Ukrainian hackers tricked Russian soldiers with fake profiles of women. The soldiers sent messages to the supposed lovers – and thus revealed their location. This enabled the Ukrainian military to strike in a targeted manner.

Germany has delivered more Gepard tanks and a tracking radar to Ukraine. The situation during the Ukrainian counter-offensive in the south is still “tense and dynamic”. Hungary wants to block EU sanctions against three oligarchs.

Russian officials and experts have published a report on how the country’s economy will develop under the influence of the sanctions. The loss of imports and exports in particular would cause the Russian economy to collapse. Stopping gas supplies to Europe would cost the country 6.6 billion euros.

The original of this article “Ukrainian refugees in Germany as witnesses to war crimes” comes from Deutsche Welle.