Russia has handed an honourary title to a brigade accused by Ukraine of atrocities and mass killings in Bucha, a town on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
A decree signed by President Vladimir Putin on Monday gave the 64th Motor Rifle Brigade the title of “Guards” for defending the “Motherland and state interests” and praised the “mass heroism and valour, tenacity and courage” of its members during what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
In early April, the Ukrainian defence ministry alleged the unit occupied the town following Russia’s invasion on February 24 and committed “war crimes”.
Its intelligence directorate published the names, ranks and passports details of members of the brigade, saying they will face justice.
A majority of the people killed in Bucha died from gunshot wounds, according to Ukrainian police.
After the departure of Russian troops, lifeless bodies of men dressed in civilian clothes, some with their hands tied, were found scattered in the streets.
Ukraine’s prosecutor general said in early April the bodies of 410 civilians had been recovered from areas in the wider Kyiv region after Ukrainian forces regained complete control.
Before collecting the bodies, authorities photograph and document them to collect evidence that may form the basis of a war crimes investigation.
The Kremlin has rejected accusations that Russian forces were responsible for killing civilians near Kyiv and suggested images of corpses were “fakes”.
Now in its 55th day, Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine has left thousands of people dead and forced 12 million people to flee their homes, including almost five million abroad.