The terrible images surfacing from the Kyiv neighbourhood of Bucha are some of the most compelling evidence yet of apparent Russian war crimes in Ukraine: On the street were dead citizens, some with their hands bound and shot execution-style, while others appeared to have been mowed down at random.

It’s a depressingly familiar trend for anyone who has studied Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war strategy. Russia’s military has a history of cruelty and contempt for the laws of armed combat, which has been well documented.

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“The history of Russia’s military interventions — be it in Ukraine or Syria, or its military campaign at home in Chechnya — is tainted with blatant disregard for international humanitarian law,” Amnesty International Secretary General Agnès Callamard said.

“The Russian military repeatedly flouted the laws of war by failing to protect civilians and even attacking them directly. Russian forces have launched indiscriminate attacks, used banned weapons, and sometimes apparently deliberately targeted civilians and civilian objects — a war crime,” Callamard added.

That declaration delivered less than a month before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, proved prescient. The international community reacted with horror in the early weeks of the war as Russian bombs rained down on Ukrainian cities. Civilian infrastructure was targeted in the same way that Russian planes formerly targeted Syrian schools and hospitals.

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However, the pictures unfolding in areas like Bucha reflect a more intimate type of violence, reminiscent of Russia’s war in Chechnya.

During the second Chechen war, which coincided with Putin’s ascension to power, charges of widespread human rights violations by Russian troops appeared. In 2000, for example, Human Rights Watch investigators documented the summary death of at least 60 civilians in two areas of Grozny, Chechnya’s capital.

Locals discovered mass graves in Chechnya, and international officials made fact-finding trips to the region, expressing alarm about accusations of mistreatment and illegal killings. These declarations did not deter Russia’s troops from carrying out its deadly pacification effort.

In towns like Bucha, evidence of summary executions abounds. A CNN team went into one building’s basement and witnessed the bodies of five individuals before they were evacuated by a Ukrainian team. According to Anton Gerashchenko, an assistant to Ukraine’s interior minister, the five men were tortured and executed by the Russian military.

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At the time of writing, Gerashchenko’s assertions could not be verified. However, the reported treatment of Ukrainian prisoners of war by Russian forces is as alarming. Liudmyla Denisova, the Ukrainian parliament’s human rights ombudsman, said Monday that Russia’s treatment of prisoners of war violates the Geneva Conventions, laying the groundwork for prospective war crimes charges.

Denisova stated in a Facebook post on Monday that the released Ukrainian soldiers have “told of the inhumane treatment of them by the Russian side: they were kept in a field, in a pit, in a garage. Periodically, one was taken out: beaten with rifle butts, shots fired next to their ear, intimidated.”

At the time of writing, Denisova’s assertions could not be verified.

Igor Zhdanov, a correspondent for the Russian official propaganda site RT, aired recordings on March 22 depicting Ukrainian prisoners of war being processed for “filtration” (Zhdanov’s term) after being taken. The videos show masked Russians inspecting their captives for tattoos or insignia that could indicate association with nationalists or “neo-Nazi” groups, whom the Russians have portrayed as their major adversaries in Ukraine.

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According to Zhdanov’s article, Ukrainian POWs are being treated humanely. But his choice of words was foreboding. During the Chechen war, Russian forces were known for using so-called “filtration camps” to segregate civilians from rebel soldiers. Anna Politkovskaya, a legendary Russian investigative reporter, obtained testimony from Chechen civilians held at filtration camps, where detainees claimed they were held in pits and subjected to electric shock, beatings, and merciless interrogation.

Local Ukrainian mayors have also been targeted by Russian soldiers for imprisonment and, in at least one case, extrajudicial death, according to Ukrainian officials.

“At the moment, 11 local mayors from Kyiv, Kherson, Mykolaiv, and Donetsk regions are in Russian captivity,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a social media message on April 3. She stated that the Ukrainian authorities learned on Saturday that Olga Sukhenko, the mayor of Motyzhyn, a hamlet in the Kyiv region, had been assassinated in Russian captivity.

Ivan Fedorov, mayor of the southern city of Melitopol, who was detained by Russian forces but later released as part of a prisoner exchange, said Russian forces occupying his city were appropriating local businesses, adding that the “situation is difficult because Russian soldiers have declared themselves as authorities but of course, they don’t care about people and their problems, they only care about taking the money from the businessmen, [and seizing] their businesses.”

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Long before the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian military was known for its harshness. Russia employs a mixed system of contract soldiers and conscripts. Although the Russian government claims to have made gains in professionalising its troops, the country’s military nevertheless retains a severe hazing system known as dedovshchina, an infamous custom in which older conscripts urge younger conscripts to beat, brutalise, or even rape them.

Putin recently issued an order on spring conscription, setting a target of 134,500 people to be drafted into the Russian armed services. The Russian President initially stated that Russian conscripts would not take part in the “special military operation” in Ukraine, which Russia has euphemistically named. However, the Russian Ministry of Defense later admitted that draftees were fighting in Ukraine, and Ukrainian forces claim to have taken a large number of Russian conscripts as prisoners.

As more territories are liberated from Russian control, particularly near Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv, Ukrainian authorities are already initiating criminal investigations into alleged crimes committed by Russian forces.

It will be days, if not weeks before we have a better understanding of what transpired in Bucha. However, if history is any indicator, there is little prospect that Russian offenders will face justice.