1 of 2 | Debris lies outside a damaged apartment block after a missile strike in Odessa, southern Ukraine, on June 14. The United Nations blames Russia for intentionally targeting civilian infrastructure. File Photo by Igor Tkachenko/EPA-EFE
Sept. 25 (UPI) -- A United Nations commission accused the Russian forces on Monday of "widespread and systematic" use of torture during its invasion of Ukraine, along with other war crimes, including purposely attacking civilians and non-military infrastructure.
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine made the accusations during a presentation to the U.N.'s Human Rights Council in Geneva. The commission said it has documented a string of war crimes perpetrated by Russian forces, ranging from the damage of a strategic dam to the transfer of unaccompanied children from Ukraine to Russia.
"The commission's investigations in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia indicate the widespread and systematic use of torture by Russian armed forces against persons accused of being informants of the Ukrainian armed forces," the commission said. "In some cases, torture was inflicted with such brutality that it caused the death of the victim."
The commission accused Russia of targeting attacks on residential buildings, a medical facility, a railway station, a restaurant, shops and commercial warehouses.
"These attacks led to civilian casualties, the damage or destruction of key facilities and the disruption of essential services and supplies," the commission said. "The commission deplores that attacks affecting civilians and medical institutions, which have protected status, continue to take place."
It also alleged that soldiers raped and committed sexual violence against women in the Kherson region while family members were "frequently" held in a nearby room and thus "forced to hear the violations taking place."
The commission said it was continuing to investigate allegations of unaccompanied children being transferred to Russia by Russian authorities, but said there was "insufficient knowledge" about the exact number of children affected and the circumstances surrounding their alleged transfers.
In March, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and children's commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova over the alleged illegal transfers of children.
Erik Mose, chairman of the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, said in a statement that the breach of Ukraine's Nova Kakhovka dam on June 6, which Kyiv blames on Russia, caused flooding and destroyed or rendered uninhabitable hundreds of homes and continues to have "ecological and economic implications."
"Well into the second year of the armed conflict, people in Ukraine have been continuing to cope with the loss and injury of loved ones, large-scale destruction, suffering and trauma, as well as economic hardship that have resulted from it," Mose said. "Thousands have been killed and injured, and millions remain internally displaced or out of the country."
A team from the ICC visited the Nova Kakhovka dam shortly after the blast with the intent to investigate.
Mose said the commission will continue to collect evidence for "judicial accountability purposes" and urged the international community to prepare for a meaningful reconstruction program.