Bucha, Ukraine – Ukrainian troops found brutalized bodies with hands bound, gunshot wounds to the head and signs of torture after Russian soldiers withdrew from the outskirts of Kyiv, authorities said on Sunday, sparking fresh calls for a war crimes probe and sanctions against Russia the end.
Associated Press journalists saw the bodies of at least nine people in civilian clothes in Bucha, a small town northwest of the capital, who appeared to have been killed at close range. At least two had their hands tied behind their backs. The AP also saw two bodies wrapped in plastic, tied with duct tape and thrown into a ditch.
Authorities said they were documenting evidence of alleged atrocities to supplement their case for prosecuting Russian officials for war crimes. To convict, prosecutors at the International Criminal Court must demonstrate a pattern of indiscriminate deadly attacks on civilians during the Russian invasion.
Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said dozens of residents were found dead on the streets of Bucha and the Kiev suburbs of Irpin and Hostomel in a “scene from a horror movie”.
Some people were shot in the head and their hands were tied, and some bodies showed signs of torture, Arestovych said. There are also reports of rape, he said.
Zelenskyjthat the Russians were committing “genocide” in Ukraine and demanded that Russia be held accountable for war crimes.
“When we find people with their hands tied behind their backs and decapitated, I don’t understand such things,” said Zelenskyy. “I don’t understand the children who were killed and tortured. So just killing for these criminals wasn’t enough. Maybe they wanted to take gold or washing machines and kill them, but they also tortured them while they were doing that.”
The capital’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said civilians were “shot with folded hands” and told the German newspaper Bild that “what happened in Bucha and other suburbs of Kyiv can only be described as genocide”.
A day earlier, AP journalists saw Ukrainian soldiers carefully removing at least six bodies with cables from a street in Bucha in case the Russians had booby-trapped bodies with explosives before their departure. Local residents said the dead were civilians killed without provocation, a claim that could not be independently verified.
“What happened in Bucha and other suburbs of Kyiv can only be described as genocide,” Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko told the German newspaper Bild. Klitschko urged other nations to stop Russian gas imports immediately, saying they were funding the killings.
“Not a cent is allowed to go to Russia anymore. This is damn money that is used to slaughter people. The gas and oil embargo must come immediately,” said the mayor.
Russian troops invaded Ukraine from three sides on February 24, and soldiers entering Belarus from the north spent weeks trying to clear a route to Kyiv. Their advance stalled in the face of determined resistance from Ukrainian defenders, and Moscow said this week it would focus the invasion elsewhere in the future.
After the Russian troops retreated north all the way back to Belarus, signs of fierce fighting were everywhere: destroyed armored vehicles from both armies lay on roads and fields along with scattered military equipment. Ukraine’s military said its troops continued to scour areas outside the capital for mines, dead bodies and lingering Russian militants.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba also called for tougher sanctions against Russia, including a total energy embargo, over the discoveries north of Kyiv. Kuleba tweeted on Sunday that the “Bucha massacre was premeditated” and claimed that the “Russians aim to eliminate as many Ukrainians as possible”.
Charles Michel, President of the European Council, wrote on Twitter that he was shocked by the “haunting images of atrocities committed by the Russian army” in the capital region. The EU and NGOs are backing efforts to secure evidence of war crimes, according to Michel, who pledged “further EU sanctions” against Russia.
The foreign ministers of France, Germany, Italy and the UK individually condemned what was described and said Russia will be held accountable.
“We will not allow Russia to use cynical disinformation to cover up its involvement in these atrocities and we will ensure that the reality of Russian actions is brought to light,” said British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.
As Russia withdrew from the capital, other parts of the country were besieged. Russia has announced it is directing troops into eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have been battling Ukrainian forces for eight years.
Almost two weeks ago, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US had determined that Russian forces had done soin Ukraine and accused them of “indiscriminate attacks and targeted attacks on civilians”.
“Russia’s armed forces have destroyed homes, schools, hospitals, critical infrastructure, civilian vehicles, shopping malls and ambulances, killing or wounding thousands of innocent civilians,” Blinken said. “Many of the sites hit by Russian forces were clearly identified as being used by civilians.”