BUCHA, Ukraine (AP) — Moscow faced a new wave of international condemnation and accusations of war crimes after Russian troops withdrew from the outskirts of Kyiv on Monday revealed bodies of civilians were lying in the streets, some were apparently killed at close range.
Images of battered bodies dumped in the open or in hastily excavated graves have led to calls for harsh sanctions against the Kremlin, mainly the suspension of fuel imports from Russia.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky left the capital, Kyiv, for the first reported visit since the start of the war nearly six weeks ago, to see for himself what he called a “genocide” and a “war crime” in the village of Bucha, some atrocities. view of .
“The dead have been found in barrels, in cellars, strangled, tortured,” said Zelensky, who once again called on Russia to intensify negotiations for an agreement to end the war.
European leaders and the president of the UN Human Rights Council have condemned the bloodshed, some calling it genocide, and US President Joe Biden has said Russian President Vladimir Putin should face trial for war crimes.
“This man is cruel and what is happening in Buka is outrageous,” said Biden, who also vowed to increase economic sanctions against Moscow.
For its part, Germany expelled 40 Russian diplomats, and Lithuania also expelled its Russian ambassador.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Lavrov called the scenes outside Kyiv an “anti-Russian provocation”. The Kremlin has repeatedly dismissed the atrocities, calling them a farce from Ukraine.
Lavrov said the mayor of Buka did not mention the atrocities the day after Russian troops left last week, but two days after photographs were taken of bodies scattered on the streets.
Ukrainian authorities claim they have found the bodies of 410 civilians in cities around Kyiv, which were recovered from the Russian military in recent days.
In Buka, northwest of the capital, Associated Press reporters saw 21 bodies, including nine in civilian clothing, who were killed at close range. At least two of them had their hands tied behind their backs, one of them was shot in the head and the other had his legs tied.
“This is a war of murder, of much blood. Many civilians are dying,” said Natalia Svitlova, a refugee from Dnipro in eastern Ukraine who fled to Poland. “I don’t understand how this is possible in the 21st century and why no one can stop it.”
Moscow continued its offensive in eastern Ukraine, where there has been little news since the war broke out on 24 February. Russia, moving away from the capital, indicated that its main objective was to take control of the Donbass, an industrial region in the east of the country, where the majority of the population speaks Russian.
European allies, while united in outrage over the outcome outside Kyiv, appear divided in their response.
Poland, which borders Ukraine and receives a large number of refugees, angrily chose not to act harshly on France and Germany and urged Europe to cut Russian energy purchases quickly. But Germany has said it will adopt a more gradual strategy to phase out coal and oil imports over the next few months.
Western and Ukrainian leaders have previously accused Russia of war crimes, and the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor’s office has launched an investigation to probe the conflict. But the latest reports raised the level of punishment.
Announcing the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Germany, Foreign Minister Annalena Barbock said her government would take further punitive action. He said the footage from Buka showed “the incredible brutality of the Russian leadership and those who followed his propaganda”.
“We must fear similar images from many other places occupied by Russian troops in Ukraine,” the German diplomat declared.