Russia: Ukraine accuses Russia of massacre, city littered with bodies

Bodies with their hands tied, gunshot wounds at close range and signs of torture lay scattered in a town on the outskirts of Kyiv after Russian soldiers withdrew from the area.

Ukrainian authorities on Sunday accused the withdrawing forces of committing war crimes and leaving behind a “scene from a horror movie”.

When images of the bodies from Bucha emerged, European leaders condemned the atrocities and called for tougher sanctions on Moscow. In a sign of how the horrific reports shook many politicians, Germany’s defense minister even suggested that the European Union consider banning Russian gas imports.

Ukrainian officials said the bodies of 410 civilians were found in towns in the Kyiv area that were recently recaptured by Russian forces.

Associated Press journalists saw the bodies of at least 21 people at various locations in Bucha, northwest of the capital. A group of nine, all in civilian clothes, were scattered about a place where residents said Russian troops had used as a base.

They appeared to have been killed at close range. At least two had their hands tied behind their backs, one was shot in the head and another had his legs tied.

Ukrainian officials blamed the killings squarely on Russian forces, with the president citing them as evidence of genocide. But Russia’s defense ministry dismissed the allegations as “provocation.”

The discoveries followed Russia’s withdrawal from the area after Moscow said it was concentrating its offensive on the east of the country. Russian troops had rolled into Bucha in the early days of the invasion and stayed awake until March 30th.

A resident who refused to give his name out of fear for his safety said Russian troops went from building to building taking people out of the basements where they were hiding and checking their phones for signs of anti-Russian activity, before they take them away or shoot them.

Hanna Herega, another resident, said Russian troops had started shooting at a neighbor who had gone out to collect wood for heating.

“They hit him just above the heel, shattered the bone and he fell,” Herega said.

“Then they shot off his left leg completely with the boot. Then they shot him everywhere.”

The AP also saw two bodies, that of a man and a woman, wrapped in plastic that residents said they had covered and placed in a chute until a proper burial could be arranged.

“He put his hands up and they shot him,” said the resident, who declined to be identified.

Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, described bodies lying on suburban streets as “a scene from a horror movie”. He claimed some of the women were raped before they were killed, and the Russians then burned the bodies.

In a video address, Zelenskyy said Russian soldiers who killed and tortured civilians were responsible for “concentrated evil.”

“It is time to do everything possible to make the Russian military’s war crimes the last manifestation of such evil on earth,” he said in a statement translated by his office.

He addressed some of his remarks to the mothers of the Russian soldiers involved.

“Even if you raised looters, how did they become butchers too?” he said. “One could not fail to see that everything human was taken from them. No soul. No heart. They killed willfully and with pleasure.”

Zelenskyy said his government will take steps to create a special judicial mechanism to investigate any crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.

Zelenskyy also appeared in a video message at Sunday’s Grammy Awards, contrasting the lives of those attending the awards ceremony in Las Vegas with the musicians’ lives in his ailing homeland.

“Our musicians wear protective vests instead of tuxedos. They sing for the wounded in hospitals, even for those who cannot hear them,” he said. “But the music will break through anyway.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that photos and videos of dead bodies “were staged by the Kiev regime for Western media.”

The ministry said “not a single civilian” in Bucha had been subjected to violent military action, and the mayor did not mention any abuse a day after Russian troops left.

Russia asked for a UN Security Council meeting on Monday to discuss events in the city. The US and UK recently accused Russia of using Security Council meetings to spread disinformation.

In Motyzhyn, about 50 kilometers west of Kyiv, residents told the AP on Sunday that Russian forces killed the city’s mayor, her husband and son and dumped their bodies in a pit in a pine forest behind houses where Russian troops slept had .

Inside the pit, AP journalists saw four bodies of people who appeared to have been shot at close range. The mayor’s husband had his hands behind his back, with a length of rope nearby and a piece of plastic wrapped around his eyes like a blindfold.

Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Iryna Vereshchuk confirmed that the mayor was killed while being held by Russian forces.

Some European leaders said the killings in the Kyiv area were war crimes. The US has previously said it believes Russia has committed war crimes, and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called images of what happened near Kyiv “a punch to the stomach” on CNN’s State of the Union.

“This is brutality against civilians that we haven’t seen in Europe for decades,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on the same program.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko called on nations to stop Russian gas imports immediately and said they were funding the killings.

In an about-face, Germany’s defense minister said the EU should consider just that. The ministers must “talk about stopping gas supplies from Russia,” said Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht on Sunday evening on ARD. “Such crimes must not go unanswered.”

Russia provides 40% of Europe’s gas and 25% of its oil, and so far many EU countries have resisted calls to limit or end dependence on Russian fossil fuels altogether. Abandoning them would mean even higher prices at the pump and higher utility bills, potentially triggering an energy crisis and recession.

The US previously announced a ban on Russian oil, but it imports only a small portion of Russia’s oil exports and does not buy natural gas from Russia.

As Russian forces retreated from the area around the capital, they also retreated from the Sumy region in northeastern Ukraine, local administrator Dmitry Zhivitsky said in a video message relayed by Ukrainian news outlets on Sunday. The troops had occupied the area for almost a month.

They continued their sieges in other parts of the country. Russia has announced it will send troops to Donbass in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have been battling Ukrainian forces for eight years.

In this region, Mariupol, a Sea of ​​Azov port that has seen some of the worst hardships of the war, has remained isolated. About 100,000 civilians – less than a quarter of the pre-war population of 430,000 – are thought to be trapped there with little or no food, water, fuel and medicine.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Sunday that a team dispatched on Saturday to help evacuate residents has not yet reached the city.

Ukrainian authorities said Russia agreed days ago to allow safe passage out of the city, but similar agreements have repeatedly collapsed amid continued fire.

The mayor of Chernihiv, which was also cut off from food shipments and other supplies for weeks, said relentless Russian shelling had destroyed 70% of the northern city.

Ukraine’s military said early Monday that its forces had recaptured some towns in the Chernihiv region and that humanitarian aid was being delivered. The road between Chernihiv and the capital Kyiv was due to reopen to traffic later in the morning, according to RBK Ukraina news agency.

The regional governor in Kharkiv said Sunday that Russian artillery and tanks launched more than 20 attacks on Ukraine’s second-biggest city and its outskirts in the north-east of the country over the past day.

The head of Ukraine’s delegation in talks with Russia said Moscow’s negotiators had informally agreed to most of a draft proposal discussed at face-to-face talks in Istanbul this week, but no written confirmation had been provided.

The Russian invasion has left thousands dead and forced more than 4 million Ukrainians to flee their country. Russia: Ukraine accuses Russia of massacre, city littered with bodies

Russell Falcon

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