Three days after the first Russian bombs struck Ukraine, Andrii Kuprash, the head of a village north of Kyiv, walked into a forest near his home and began to dig. He didn’t stop until he had carved out a shallow pit, big enough for a man like him. It was his just-in-case, a place to lie low if he needed.
He covered it with branches and went back home.
A week later, Kuprash got a call around 8 a.m. from an unknown number. A man speaking Russian asked if he was the village head. Something was amiss.
“No, you’ve got the wrong number,” Kuprash lied. “We will find you anyway,” the man responded. “It’s better to cooperate with us.’” Kuprash grabbed some camping kit and his warmest coat and headed for his hole in the woods.
Kuprash — and others The Associated Press spoke with — had been quietly warned that they were targets for advancing Russian forces. Word went round in circles of influential Ukrainians: Don’t sleep in your own home. Get rid of your phone. Get out of Ukraine.
The hunt was on.
In a deliberate, widespread campaign, Russian forces systematically targeted influential Ukrainians, nationally and locally, to neutralize resistance through detention, torture and executions, an Associated Press investigation has found. The strategy appears to violate the laws of war and could help build a case for genocide.
Russian troops hunted Ukrainians by name, using lists prepared with the help of their intelligence services. In the crosshairs were government officials, journalists, activists, veterans, religious leaders and lawyers. [Continue reading…]