'Butcher of Bucha' behind 'inhuman' war crimes was 'blessed by the Orthodox Church'

6 April 2022, 10:47 | Updated: 6 April 2022, 10:49

The 'Butcher of Bucha' has been identified.
The 'Butcher of Bucha' has been identified. Picture: Rossiya 24/Getty

By Emma Soteriou

The commander believed to be responsible for 'mass rape and murder' in the Ukrainian city of Bucha has been named as a veteran soldier who was recently blessed by the Orthodox Church.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Lieutenant Colonel Azatbek Omurbekov was identified as the commander of the 64th Separate Motorised Rifle Brigade, which occupied Bucha during the mass 'genocide' in March.

Russian troops were accused of committing several war crimes in the city after the mass killings of innocent civilians and reported rape of women and children.

InformNapalm, a Ukrainian volunteer initiative that monitors the activities of the Russian military and special services, said it used open-source intelligence to identify Omurbekov.

It released several of his personal details, including his email address, phone number and home address.

The initiative also discovered that Omurbekov was blessed by an Orthodox priest just months before the Ukraine conflict broke out.

Following the service in November, which was led by the Bishop of Khabarovsk, the commander said: "History shows that we fight most of our battles with our souls.

"Weapons are not the most important thing.

"The church is a place where we can take communion and prepare for the coming events.

"With the blessing of the Almighty, we hope to achieve the same things that our forebears achieved."

The colonel - thought to be around the age of 40 - was given a medal for outstanding service in 2014 by Dmitry Bulgakov, the deputy Russian defence minister.

Read more: Boris pleads with Russians: Don't let Putin's 'war crimes' be in your name

Read more: Zelenskyy: Ukrainians 'having tongues cut off' and being turned into 'silent slaves'

Nick's furious clash with caller over Ukraine

Earlier in the week, mass graves were discovered in Bucha, following the withdrawal of Russian troops.

Bodies lined the streets - some still in their vehicles while others had their hands tied behind their backs.

Ukrainian defence minister Oleksiy Reznikov said the behaviour of Russian troops was "utterly inhuman".

He said: "This is what the SS troops used to do in the past.

"This evil simply cannot go unpunished.

"Our intelligence is consistently identifying all invaders and killers. All of them!

"And each killer will at his own time get what he deserves."