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A commanding officer in the Russian army accused of involvement in the killing of civilians in the Ukrainian city of Bucha has by all available evidence been promoted to the rank of colonel from lieutenant colonel.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense referred to the officer as Col. Azatbek Omurbekov in a statement Friday, the first to accord him that rank.

“For three weeks, under the leadership of Colonel Omurbekov, brigade units repelled more than 50 enemy attacks with tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and heavy artillery,” it said in a Telegram post with the tagline “#HeroesZ.”

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense wrote Saturday in a tweet that Azatbek Omurbekov, of Russia’s 64th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade, had been promoted to the new rank.

“For [the] civilized world he is an executioner, killer, rapist, looter,” it said on Twitter on Saturday. “But for [the] Kremlin he’s a ‘hero,’” adding that the promotion would have the effect of “motivating him to commit new war crimes.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin bestowed the honorary “guards” designation on Col. Omurbekov’s unit earlier this month.

The U.K. on Thursday said it was imposing new sanctions on what it called “key leaders in Russia’s army – targeting those commanding the front line to commit these heinous acts.” They included the commanding officer of the Russian military unit that occupied Bucha, whom it identified as Lt. Col. Omurbekov, the rank below colonel.

Hundreds of people were found dead in Bucha, a city north of Kyiv, after Russian forces withdrew from the town several weeks ago, including some with their hands bound. Russia has denied allegations that its forces were involved in the killing of civilians.

Read More:Latest News and Live Updates

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