Western allies, though united in outrage over new evidence of atrocities committed in Ukraine, appear to be divided over how to respond.
BUCHA, Kyiv Oblast – Moscow faced global disgust and accusations of war crimes on Monday after Russian withdrawals from the outskirts of Kyiv uncovered streets, buildings and courtyards. strewn with corpses of those who appeared to be civilians, many were apparently killed at close range.
Horrific images of beaten or burned bodies left in the open or hastily buried have prompted calls for tougher sanctions against the Kremlin, especially to stop fuel imports from Russia. Germany and France have responded by expelling dozens of Russian diplomats, suggesting they are spies, and US President Joe Biden has said Russian leader Vladimir Putin should be tried for war crimes.
“This guy is brutal, and what’s going on in Bucha is outrageous,” Biden said, referring to the city northwest of the capital, which has been the scene of some horrors.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky left the capital, Kyiv, on his first trip since the war began almost six weeks ago to see for himself what he called “genocide” and “war crimes” in Bucha.
In his night video, Zelensky promised that Ukraine would work with the European Union and the International Criminal Court to identify Russian fighters involved in any atrocities.
“There will come a time when every Russian will learn the whole truth about who killed their fellow citizens, who ordered, who turned a blind eye to the murders,” he said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed the scenes near Kiev as a “regulated anti-Russian provocation.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the images contained “signs of video forgery and various forgeries.”
Russia has similarly dismissed previous allegations of atrocities as fabrications by Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials said the bodies of at least 410 civilians had been found in cities around Kiev that had been repulsed by Russian troops in recent days.
The Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office called one of the rooms found in Bucha a “torture chamber”. The statement said that the bodies of five men with their hands tied were found in the basement of a children’s sanatorium, where civilians were tortured and killed.
Associated Press reporters saw dozens of bodies in Bucha, including at least 13 in and around the building, which locals say was used by Russian troops as a base. Three more bodies were found on the stairwell, and a group of six people were burned together.
Many of the victims seen by the AP were shot at close range. Some were shot in the head. At least two had their hands tied. Near one victim lay a bag of spilled food.
Among the dead witnessed by journalists of the news agency were also bodies wrapped in black plastic, dumped at one end of a mass grave in the Bucha churchyard. Many of these victims were killed in cars or killed in explosions that tried to flee the city. With a full morgue and inability to reach the cemetery, the only place to store the dead was a graveyard, said Father Andrew Golovin.
Tanya Nedashkivskaya said she buried her husband in the garden near their house after he was detained by the Russian military. His body was one of those left on the stairwell.
“Please do something!” she said. “This is what I say, Ukrainian, Ukrainian, mother of two children and one grandson. May there be peace on Earth for all wives and mothers, so that no one will ever grieve again. ”
Another resident of Bucha, Uladzimir Pilhutski, said that his neighbor Pavel Vlasenko was taken away by the Russian military because the military-type pants he was wearing and the uniform, which Vlasenko said belonged to his son-guard, looked suspicious. When Vlasenka’s body was later found, there were traces of fireworks burns on it, his neighbor said.
“I came closer and saw that his body was burnt,” Pilhutsky said. “They didn’t just shoot him.”
Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, insisted at a news conference on Monday that “no locals have been affected by the violence since Bucha was under Russian control.”
However, high-resolution satellite imagery taken by commercial supplier Maxar Technologies showed that many bodies lay in the open for several weeks while Russian forces were in Bucha. The New York Times reported for the first time on satellite imagery showing the dead.
In other cases, more than 1,500 civilians were evacuated Monday from the besieged and destroyed port city of Mariupol in the south, using fewer and fewer private vehicles available to exit, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Verashchuk said.
But during the fighting, a convoy of buses accompanied by the Red Cross, which had been stopped for several days to deliver materials and evacuate residents, was unable to reach the city again, Verashchuk said.
European leaders and the UN human rights chief have joined Ukrainians in condemning the bloodshed, which was exposed after the withdrawal of Russian troops from the area around Kiev.
At the same time, many warned that the full scale of the horrors had not yet been revealed.
“Without exaggeration, but with great sadness I can tell you that the situation in Mariupol is much worse than what we saw in Bucha and other cities, towns and villages near Kiev,” said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba.
Zelensky was scheduled to address a previously scheduled meeting of the UN Security Council on Tuesday. The British Ambassador to the UN Barbara Woodward said that the session will certainly be dedicated to the killing of a large number of civilians in Ukraine.
Western and Ukrainian leaders have previously accused Russia of war crimes, and a prosecutor at the International Criminal Court has already launched an investigation. But recent reports have heightened condemnation.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Berbok said the footage from Bucha showed “the incredible brutality of the Russian leadership and those who follow its propaganda.” And French President Emmanuel Macron said Bucha had “clear evidence of war crimes” that required new punitive measures.
“I am in favor of a new round of sanctions, in particular on coal and petrol. We need to act, ”he told France-Inter radio.
Although the European allies were united in outrage, they looked divided on how to respond. While Poland called on Europe to quickly wean itself off Russian energy resources, Germany said it would take a gradual approach to phasing out coal and oil imports over the next few months.
The United States and its allies have sought to punish Russia for the invasion by imposing broad sanctions, but fear further damage to the global economy, which is still recovering from the pandemic. Europe is in a special situation, as it gets 40% of its gas and 25% of its oil from Russia.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki described Putin’s Russia as a “totalitarian-fascist state” and called for decisive action “that will finally break Putin’s military machine.” “Would you negotiate with Hitler, with Stalin, with Pol Pot?” Moravetsky asked Macron.
Russia has withdrawn many of its forces from the capital area in recent days after its attempt to quickly seize Kyiv was thwarted.
Instead, it shifted troops and mercenaries to the east of the country in an intensified attempt to gain control of the Donbass, a predominantly Russian-speaking industrial region that includes Mariupol, which has endured some of the heaviest fighting and greatest suffering of the war.
About two-thirds of Russian troops around Kyiv have left and are either in Belarus or en route there, likely to receive more supplies and reinforcements, said a senior US Defense Department spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence assessments.
According to the official, Russian forces are also rearranging artillery and troops to try to capture the city of Izyum, which lies on a key road to the Donbass.
On Monday, Russian shelling in the southern city of Nikolaev killed 11 people, said the governor of the region Vitaly Kim in a video message on social networks. Kim said nine of the victims died at a public transport stop in the city center.
Zelensky called for an increase in armaments as Russia prepares a new offensive.
“If we had what we needed – all these planes, tanks, artillery, anti-missile and anti-ship weapons – we could save thousands of people,” he said.
From the Ukrainian Matyzhina reported Qena. Yuras Karmanov from Lviv, Ukraine, and Associated Press reporters around the world.