Children as young as four have been subjected to horrors such as rape and torture by Russian troops in Ukraine, according to a United Nations-mandated investigation body.

Vladimir Putin's troops have been accused of a litany of war crimes and human rights abuses in Russian-controlled regions since tanks first crossed the border on February 24.

Although Moscow has repeatedly denied the allegations, suggesting they are simply western propaganda, the discoveries of mass graves and other horrifying reports from Ukraine suggest otherwise.

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Erik Mose, who heads the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Friday: "Based on the evidence gathered by the Commission, it has concluded that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine.”

He did not specify who was to blame – but the commission has focused on areas previously occupied by Russian forces including Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy, reports the Express.

Commission investigators, which was created by the UNHRC in March, visited 27 places and interviewed more than 150 victims and witnesses.

They uncovered evidence of a large number of executions including bodies with tied hands, slit throats and gunshot wounds to the head, Mose said.

He said investigators had identified victims of sexual violence ranging in age between four and 82. While some Russian soldiers had used sexual violence as a strategy, the commission "has not established any general pattern to that effect", Mose added.

Russia denies deliberately attacking civilians during what it has repeatedly referred to as a "special military operation".

Moscow was called on to respond to the allegations at the council meeting but its seat was left empty. There was no immediate official reaction.

The commission will next turn its attention to allegations of "filtration" camps in Russian-occupied areas for processing Ukrainian prisoners as well as claims of forced transfers of people and adoption of Ukrainian children in Russia.

Ukraine and some other nations urged the commission to also investigate a mass burial site near Izium, in eastern Ukraine, where hundreds of bodies have been found.

Speaking via video link, Ukraine's envoy Anton Korynevych told the council: "If left unanswered, Russia's violations will drag us into a dark world of impunity and permissiveness.”

Sometimes investigations launched by the council can be used before national and international courts, such as in the case of a former Syrian intelligence officer jailed for state-backed torture in Germany in January.

Mr Mose said he was in touch with the International Criminal Court about the commission's findings.

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The body, spearheaded by UK barrister and Prosecutor Karim Khan, is scheduled to submit a complete report to the council at the end of its mandate in March 2023, including with recommendations on how to hold perpetrators to account.

A report published in April by Human Rights Watch likewise accused Russia of war crimes in Ukraine.

Cases highlighted included a case of repeated rape; two cases of summary execution, one of six men, the other of one man; and other cases of unlawful violence and threats against civilians between February 27 and March 14, 2022.

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