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Ukraine already investigating almost 4,500 alleged Russian war crimes

Wounded Ukrainian soldier wishes "Putin dead"
Wounded Ukrainian soldier on what it's like to be on the front lines 03:31

Berdychiv, Ukraine — Evidence of the cruelty and terror of Russia's war on Ukraine continues to emerge. New video appears to show an ambulance hit by shelling in the parking lot of a hospital in the southern city of Mykolaiv. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday that Russia is intentionally killing civilians in his country. 

Zelenskyy accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of carrying out genocide in Ukraine. The Biden administration hasn't gone that far, but Britain's prime minister said on Wednesday that, "what Putin has done in Ukraine doesn't look far short of genocide to me."

NOTE: Both the video above and the article below contain disturbing material

CBS News senior foreign correspondent Holly Williams reports that Ukrainian prosecutors say they're already investigating almost 4,500 alleged war crimes by Russian troops. The country's prosecutor general said they were determined to "punish the monsters who are responsible" for the atrocities in Ukraine.

The cruelty of the Russian troops who recently pulled out of the Kyiv suburb of Bucha — the inhumanity they inflicted on civilians — is painful to look at. But Ukrainian investigators can't turn away. It's their job to document it: Meticulously noting every charred corpse, every victim with a gunshot wound to the head and hands bound behind their back.

It's grim but vital work, because Russia has been accused of war crimes.

Stories of Russian atrocities pour out of Ukraine 02:51

Ukraine's Interior Minister Denis Monastyrsky said he had one simple message for Putin: "Go to hell."

Irina Abramova said her husband Oleg was the love of her life. She described to journalists in Bucha how he was executed by the Russians.

"They took him from our home in his slippers," she said. "They didn't ask anything or say anything, they just killed him… They only told him to take off his shirt, kneel down, and they shot him."

In the western city of Lviv — largely spared from Russia's attacks and sheltering many of the 11 million Ukrainians who've been driven from their homes — there was a candlelit vigil Tuesday night for the civilians killed in the war.

"We want just to pray for their soul, and at the same time we want to pray for Ukraine," Svitlana Shklova said at the vigil. "We hope that our nation will win this war."

The atrocities have not been confined to Bucha. Other towns and villages have also reported horrors under Russian occupation. For Ukrainians, the slaughter of their own people is heart-rending — and it's fueling the fight to protect their homeland and their freedom, whatever the cost.

Serhii Lahovskyi mourns next to the grave of his friend Ihor Lytvynenko, in Bucha
Serhii Lahovskyi, 26, mourns next to the grave of his friend Ihor Lytvynenko, who according to residents was killed by Russian soldiers amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Bucha, in the Kyiv region, April 6, 2022. ALKIS KONSTANTINIDIS/REUTERS

Williams and her team were granted rare access to a Ukrainian military hospital where medics are treating soldiers wounded on the frontlines. 

Mykola, a mechanic and military reservist, told CBS News he was hit by shrapnel during a firefight with the Russians.

"We can't stop them on our own," he told Williams. "We have to rely on support from the West. Something needs to be done, because this will go on and on."

Zelenskyy accuses Russia of war crimes in U.N. plea 03:45

Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said on Tuesday that despite the still-increasing flood of American weaponry and other military aid into Ukraine, he, too, believed it would be "a very protracted conflict," measured in years, not weeks or months.

On Tuesday, the Biden administration promised another $100 million worth of "security assistance," aimed at strengthening "Ukraine's position on the battlefield and at the negotiating table," according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Part of that new assistance will be more Javelin anti-tank rockets from Pentagon stocks — weapons that have already helped Ukraine push Russia's forces back around Kyiv and other cities.

Blinken also said the U.S. and its allies would continue "to gather information to document reported abuses and make it available to the appropriate bodies to hold those responsible to account."

Many Ukrainians have expressed to CBS News' teams their gratitude for American help — but some are also frustrated. As their president has made clear on multiple occasions, to every world leader who will listen, they say they need more weapons, especially aircraft and modern air defense systems.

With Russian troops believed to be regrouping after their withdrawal from the Kyiv region for a looming renewed assault in Eastern Ukraine, they say that need could not be more urgent.

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