Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Signs of massacre in Bucha spark calls for war-crime probes

Condemnation of the alleged assault on civilians resounded around the world, with numerous countries demanding investigations and accountability, Russia’s Defense Ministry, however, questioned the authenticity of some of the photos from Bucha.

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, in a tweet Sunday accusing Russia of carrying out a “massacre,” requested that the International Criminal Court visit the scene “to collect all the evidence of these war crimes” and use it to prosecute those responsible.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said that “you can’t help but see these images [out of Bucha] as a punch to the gut” but avoided calling it genocide.

“I think the most important thing is we can’t become numb to this. We can’t normalize this,” Blinken said, noting that the United States will help ensure that relevant institutions have the evidence they need to determine what happened.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, on the same show, said the Bucha scenes reflected “brutality against civilians we haven’t seen in Europe for decades. And it’s horrific and it’s absolutely unacceptable that civilians are targeted and killed.”

Britain also called for a probe and said it would support any investigations by the ICC. “As Russian troops are forced into retreat, we are seeing increasing evidence of appalling acts by the invading forces in towns such as Irpin and Bucha,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Sunday.

“Their indiscriminate attacks against innocent civilians during Russia’s illegal and unjustified invasion of Ukraine must be investigated as war crimes,” Truss said, adding that Britain would “not allow Russia to cover up their involvement in these atrocities through cynical disinformation.”

Meanwhile, Russia’s Defense Ministry reposted a Telegram message in its channel that claimed some of the footage of bodies in Bucha was “fake” and accused Ukrainian forces of killing people by shelling Bucha.

Ukraine’s leaders forcefully condemned what they characterized as Russian war crimes in Bucha. Klitschko, the Kyiv mayor, told Germany’s Bild news outlet on Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin was responsible for “cruel war crimes,” including the shooting of civilians with their hands bound, in Bucha.

Bucha’s mayor, Anatoly Fedoruk, told The Washington Post that around 270 residents had been buried in two mass graves and estimated that 40 people were lying dead in the streets. Some, he said, had been bound and executed — shot in the back of the head.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement Sunday that it had “documented several cases of Russian military forces committing laws-of-war violations against civilians in occupied areas of the Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Kyiv regions of Ukraine.”

In Bucha, the human rights advocacy group said, it spoke to a teacher who reported witnessing Russian forces executing a man on March 4.

Video posted to social media Saturday and verified by The Post showed at least nine people, including one child, lying on the street of a residential area. They appear to be dead.

Condemnation of the scenes rippled through Europe.

European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen said she was “appalled by reports of unspeakable horrors in areas from which Russia is withdrawing” and called for an “independent investigation.”

“Perpetrators of war crimes will be held accountable,” she said.

European Council President Charles Michel said The European Union would support Ukraine in gathering evidence to pursue charges against Russia in international courts. He said he was “shocked by haunting images of atrocities committed by Russian army in Kyiv liberated region.”

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called the images “unbearable” and said those responsible should be held accountable. French President Emmanuel Macron said that “Russian authorities will have to answer for these crimes.”

Others called for fresh sanctions against Russia and more support for Ukraine.

Latvia’s foreign minister, Edgars Rinkevics, said Russian troops committed “genocide” and “war crimes” in Bucha that “must be met with new sanctions & increased military assistance to Ukraine.” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis argued that the EU should stop buying Russian oil and gas.

Amy B Wang, David L. Stern, Meg Kelly and Claire Parker contributed to this report.

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