BUCHA, Ukraine – Bodies with tied hands, close-range gunshot wounds and signs of torture were scattered in a town on the outskirts of Kiev after Russian soldiers withdrew from the area. Ukrainian authorities on Sunday accused the departing forces of committing war crimes and leaving behind a “scene from a horror movie”.
As images of the bodies – of people who residents said were killed randomly – began to emerge from Bucha, a number of European leaders condemned the atrocities and called for tougher sanctions against Moscow.
The bodies of 410 civilians have been removed from cities in the Kyiv region, which were recently withdrawn from Russian forces, said Ukraine’s Attorney General Iryna Venediktova.
Associated Press journalists saw the bodies of at least 21 people in various locations around Bucha, northwest of the capital. A group of nine, all in civilian clothes, were scattered around a place that residents said Russian troops used as a base. They appeared to have been killed at close range. At least two had their hands tied behind their backs, and one of them was shot in the head; someone else’s leg was tied.
Ukrainian officials blamed the killings – which they say happened in Bucha and other Kyiv suburbs – right at the feet of Russian troops, where the president called them evidence of genocide. But Russia’s Defense Ministry dismissed the allegations as “provocation”.
The discoveries followed the Russian retreat from the area around the capital, an area that has been the subject of fierce fighting since troops invaded Ukraine from three directions on 24 February. but their advance came to a standstill in the face of resolute defense from the forces of Ukraine.
Moscow now says it is focusing its offensive on the country’s east, but it also pushed for a siege of a city in the north and continued to attack cities elsewhere in a war that has already forced more than 4 million Ukrainians to flee. their country and many more to leave their homes.
Russian troops rolled into Bucha in the early days of the invasion and stayed up on March 30th. When these forces were gone, residents issued shocking reports Sunday, saying soldiers shot and killed civilians for no apparent reason.
A resident who refused to give his name for fear of his safety said Russian troops went from building to building, taking people out of the basements where they were hiding, checking their phones for signs of anti-Russian activity and taking them away or shoot them.
Hanna Herega, who lives in Bucha, said Russian troops shot a neighbor who had gone out to gather wood for heating.
“He was going to get some wood when the (Russians) suddenly started shooting. They hit him a bit over the heel and broke the bone, and he fell down,” said Herega. “Then they shot his left leg completely off with the boot. “Then they shot him all over (his chest). And another shot went a little below the temple. It was a controlled shot to the head.”
AP also saw two bodies, a man and a woman, wrapped in plastic, which residents said they had covered and laid in a shaft until a proper funeral could be arranged.
The resident, who refused to be identified, said the man was killed as he left a home.
“He held out his hands and they shot him,” he said.
Oleksiy Arestovych, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said dozens of residents were found killed on the streets of the suburbs of Irpin and Hostomel as well as Bucha, in what looked like a “horror movie scene.”
He claimed that some of the women found dead had been raped before being killed and that the Russians then burned the bodies.
“This is genocide,” Zelenskyy told CBS ‘”Face the Nation” on Sunday.
But Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that the images and videos of dead bodies “have been staged by the Kiev regime for the Western media.” It noted that the mayor of Bucha did not mention any kind of aggression a day after Russian troops left.
The accused ministry said that “not a single civilian has been subjected to any violent act by the Russian military” in Bucha.
Over the weekend, AP journalists saw Ukrainian soldiers carefully removing at least six bodies from a street in Bucha with cables in case the Russians had cut down bodies of explosives before withdrawing.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko called on other nations to stop Russian gas imports immediately, saying they were financing the killings.
“Not a penny should go to Russia anymore,” Klitschko told the German newspaper Bild. “It’s bloody money used to slaughter people. The gas and oil embargo must come immediately.”
Officials in France, Germany, Italy, Estonia and the United Kingdom each condemned what was being said and swore that Russia would be held accountable.
“This is not a battlefield, this is a crime scene,” tweeted Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.
Authorities said they documented evidence to add to their case of prosecution of Russian war crimes officials.
As Russian forces withdrew from the area around the capital, they pressed for their sieges in other parts of the country. Russia has said it is directing troops to the Donbas in eastern Ukraine, where Russia-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years.
In that region, Mariupol, a port on the Sea of Azov that has experienced some of the greatest suffering of the war, remained cut off. About 100,000 civilians – less than a quarter of the pre-war population of 430,000 – are believed to have been trapped there with little or no food, water, fuel and medicine.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Sunday that a team sent on Saturday to help evacuate residents had not yet reached the city.
Ukrainian authorities said Russia days ago agreed to allow safe passage from the city, but similar agreements have been repeatedly broken during continued shelling.
A supermarket parking lot in the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia has meanwhile become a space to help people who have come out.
Peycheva Olena, who fled the besieged city, told British Sky News that she was forced to leave the body of her husband unburied when he was killed during a shooting.
“There was shelling and we tried to pull him away, but it was too much, we could not do it,” explained her daughter, Kristina Katrikova.
The mayor of Chernihiv, who has also been under attack for weeks, said on Sunday that relentless Russian shelling had destroyed 70% of the northern city. As in Mariupol, Chernihiv has been cut off from shipments of food and other supplies.
On Sunday morning, Russian forces fired missiles at the Black Sea port of Odesa in southern Ukraine, sending clouds of dark smoke blurring parts of the city. The Russian military said the targets were an oil refinery and fuel depots around Odesa, Ukraine’s largest port and home to its navy.
Odesa City Council said Ukraine’s air defenses fired some missiles before hitting the city. Ukrainian military spokesman Vladyslav Nazarov said there were no casualties from the attack.
The Kharkiv regional governor said on Sunday that Russian artillery and tanks carried out more than 20 attacks on Ukraine’s second largest city and its outskirts in the northeastern part of the country over the past 24 hours.
The head of Ukraine’s delegation in negotiations with Russia said that Moscow’s negotiators informally agreed to most of a draft proposal that was discussed during face-to-face talks in Istanbul this week, but no written statement has been made. confirm.
Ukrainian negotiator Davyd Arakhamia said on Ukrainian television that he hoped the proposal was developed enough so that Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin could meet to discuss it. But the top Russian negotiator in negotiations with Ukraine, Vladimir Medinksy, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying it was too early to talk about a meeting between the two leaders.