A report published by Human Rights Watch, Ukrainian human rights organization Truth Hounds, and SITU Research on Feb. 8 identifies 17 military units that took part in Russia's assault on Mariupol at the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
The city came under siege by Russian forces between February and May 2022, leaving thousands dead and reducing the city to rubble.
The report estimates that at least 8,000 people were killed as a result of the Russian assault on Mariupol, based on satellite imagery and photos of mass graves in the city's cemeteries. However, this is "likely a significant underestimation of the total number of dead," as the number of bodies contained in mass graves is unknown.
The report named units from the Black Sea Fleet, special forces, Chechen forces, and Russian proxy forces in Donetsk Oblast, among other branches of the Russian military.
The report named 10 commanders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who "likely bear command responsibility for war crimes committed in Mariupol during this period."
The report also named Alexander Dvornikov, then-commander of the Southern Military District, Viktor Zolotov, the commander-in-chief of the National Guard, and Ramzan Kadyrov, for his role as head of the Chechen Republic and Chechen National Guard forces.
"The highest levels of the Russian military command had deep knowledge of the situation in Mariupol and were closely involved in the planning, execution, and coordination of military operations," the report said.
The report notes that the "apparent lack of certain a unified Russian command" during the launch of the full-scale invasion means there are significant gaps in the "understanding of the command and control of Russian forces engaged in specific operations in Mariupol."
By mid-May, an estimated 400,000 people had fled the city, and 93% of the multi-story apartment buildings in the city center had been damaged, according to the report.
"All 19 hospital campuses city-wide were damaged, and 86 of the 89 educational facilities that we identified across the city were also damaged."