Zelenskyy accuses Russia of covering up “crimes” in occupied territories

Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned that the Russians would launch a campaign to “hide their guilt” in areas of Ukraine still under Moscow control after their troops withdrew from Kiev’s suburbs in recent days and found the bodies left behind by hundreds of civilians.

Ukraine’s president’s comments on Tuesday came as the US Treasury announced new steps to make it more difficult for Russia to make dollar debt payments through American banks, bringing Moscow a step closer to a possible default on its obligations to international investors.

Zelenskyy traveled to the city of Bucha and other suburbs of Kyiv on Monday with foreign journalists as investigators started gathering evidence what Ukrainian officials called “war crimes” committed by Russian troops before retreating.

After world leaders condemned the apparent mass killings and several EU countries expelled Russian diplomats in response, Zelenskyy said he expected the occupying powers to remain under their control in the Ukrainian territories, east and south of the country , “would deal differently with their crimes”.

“They are already waging an active campaign to hide their guilt in the mass murder of civilians Mariupol‘ Zelenskyy said in a video speech. “They will conduct dozens of staged interviews, post-edit footage, and intentionally kill people to make it appear as if someone else killed them.”

Zelenskyi added that he expects the Russians to “clean up the evidence of their crimes”.

Russia has denied that civilians were harmed during its occupation of Bucha. Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said reports of the killings were a “false attack” after his department accused the Ukrainian government of staging a “hoax” for Western media.

Ukrainian troops and journalists invading Bucha and other towns near Kyiv captured by the Russians found the bodies of dead civilians lying in the streets and freshly dug graves. Russia has continued to withdraw most of its troops from the capital region and northern Ukraine in recent days shifted his focus conquer territory in the east of the country.

The “Russian enemy is regrouping its troops and focusing its efforts on preparing an aggressive operation in the east of our country,” said the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. “The goal is to gain full control over the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.”

Western governments have come forward after news and images of the killings surfaced over the weekend agitated calls for tougher sanctions against Russia.

French President Emmanuel Macron backed a ban on Russian coal and oil sales.

US President Joe Biden called Russian leader Vladimir Putin “brutal” in his initial comments following the alleged atrocities in Bucha and said what happened in the city was “outrageous”. He also announced that sanctions would be tightened.

That’s what the US Treasury Department said no longer allow US dollar payments from Russian government accounts with US financial institutions. “Russia must choose between using up the remaining valuable dollar reserves or generating new revenue or defaulting,” a US Treasury Department spokesman said.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, said he spoke to UN Secretary-General António Guterres and urged him to use mechanisms “to collect evidence and bring Russian war criminals to justice”.

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Adam Bradshaw

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