Calls for investigations into war crimes and tougher sanctions against Moscow grew louder on Monday as Ukrainian and Western officials reacted to the discovery of mass graves and streets littered with the bodies of dead civilians following Russia’s withdrawal from the suburbs around Kyiv.
European nations including Britain, Germany, France and Spain have vowed to punish Russia for alleged atrocities in a war now entering its 40th year. As Russia’s military focus appeared to shift to southern and eastern areas, fresh attacks were reported overnight , including the historic Black Sea port of Odessa and the city of Mykolaiv, both to the south. There was no information on the dead or injured.
In a late night video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that the most brutal images from newly liberated areas like Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, were yet to come. The Ukrainian government said it had killed 400 civilians in the Kyiv suburbs, including the devastated city of Irpin, since invading Russian troops began withdrawing last week.
“After the occupiers were driven out, there was even worse to be found there. More death and torture,” said Zelenskyy. “That is the nature of the Russian forces that came to our country.”
Zelensky has described the scenes in Bucha, where photos and videos show mass graves and dead men and women lying face down on residential streets, as evidence of Russian “genocide” against Ukrainians. He promised to set up a special judicial mechanism to investigate alleged war atrocities, involving international prosecutors and judges.
The horrific scenes have sparked international outrage and demand that Russia be held accountable.
“We will do everything we can to ensure that those who committed these war crimes do not go unpunished,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Monday, citing “alleged cases of [crimes against] Humanity, war crimes and – why not say – genocide.”
French President Emmanuel Macron described the gruesome images as “intolerable” on Monday. Macron, who said he supports additional sanctions, said it was “very clear” that Russia had committed war crimes.
And a senior government official in Germany, a major importer of Russian gas and one of the strongest opponents of disrupting that trade, signaled Sunday that he could change course and back a ban. “There has to be an answer,” said Secretary of Defense Christine Lambrecht. “Such crimes must not go unanswered.”
More than half of German gas comes from Russia. Europe gets a total of 40% of its gas and 25% of its oil from Russia.
At a daily press conference on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the pictures from Bucha were fake. “We categorically reject all allegations,” said Peskow.
Russia has repeatedly denied attacking civilians in Ukraine. The US, the United Nations, and humanitarian groups have documented otherwise.
Although they were never able to penetrate central Kyiv, the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin said its forces had successfully completed the “first phase” of Russia’s war against Ukraine and east into the Donbass industrial region and others Areas would be relocated to where the Separatist movements in Russia.
By Monday, Russian troops appeared to have evacuated several towns around the northeastern city of Chernihiv, according to regional governor Viacheslav Chaus.
Chaus, who said about 70% of the city was destroyed, warned remaining residents not to get too comfortable. In a message to the Telegram app, he advised patience while Ukrainian troops clear mines.
“We must avoid new victims,” he said.
Key aid routes into the city have been cut off for weeks, but Ukrainian news The RBK Ukraina outlet reported a positive development: the 92-mile auto route between Kyiv and Chernihiv was partially reopened on Monday morning.
Further east in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, local prosecutors said Monday seven people were killed and 34 injured in shelling of residential buildings on Sunday.
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The changing terrain of the war has brought western parts of Ukraine into relative peace as local reconstruction efforts began, although war raged in the south and east.
The British Ministry of Defense warned on Monday that Russian fighters are in a “consolidation and reorganization phase” as they plan further offensives in the Donbass. The ministry said fighters from Wagner, a Russian paramilitary company, were in the area.
At the same time, Ukraine’s military said in a report Monday that a “covert mobilization” was underway by the Russians to regroup amid their withdrawal from some parts of Ukraine.
“The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation plan to deploy around 60,000 people during the mobilization,” the report said.
At least 1,417 civilians have been killed since Russia started the war on February 24, according to the United Nations. About a quarter of Ukraine’s 44 million people have been displaced and more than 4 million have fled the country.
McDonnell reported from Lemberg and Kaleem from London.
https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-04-04/bucha-kyiv-atrocities-ukraine-russia-more-sanctions Calls for more sanctions against Russia have been raised after mass graves were found