Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has visited the city of Bucha, where Vladimir Putin’s forces have reportedly killed dozens of civilians in a trial widely condemned as a war crime.
Mr Zelensky was flanked by security forces as he met with local residents to discuss the violence inflicted on them by Russian forces. During the visit, he condemned the killings as “genocide” and “war crimes.”
Speaking to reporters about the deaths of civilians in Ukraine, he told reporters, “It is recognized by the world as genocide. We know of thousands of people who have been killed and tortured, with limbs severed, women raped, children killed.”
He added that it was “very difficult” to continue negotiations with Russia after the atrocities were exposed.
Dozens of dead civilians were found on the streets of the small town of Bucha and the Kiev suburb of Irpin after Russian forces withdrew.
Associated Press said his journalists saw 21 bodies. A group of nine, all in civilian clothes, were scattered about a place where residents said Russian troops had used as a base.
They appeared to have been shot at close range. At least two had their hands tied behind their backs. Reuters Journalists saw a man lying sprawled by the side of the road with his hands tied behind his back and a gunshot wound to the head.
Satellite imagery by private company Maxar showed a 45-foot ditch in Bucha where a number of mass graves were found. Ukrainian officials said the bodies of 410 civilians were found in towns around the capital Kyiv.
In a video address on Sunday evening, Mr Zelensky said the Russian armed forces’ defendants were “murderers, torturers, rapists, looters – calling themselves the army”.
The Kremlin has denied all allegations related to the killing of civilians, including in Bucha, where it said the graves and bodies were staged by Ukraine to smear Russia.
Russia’s Defense Ministry dismissed Ukraine’s accusation of a suspected massacre, saying its forces had completely evacuated the city as early as March 30.
Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said Monday the situation in the Ukrainian city was a “sham attack” aimed at undermining Moscow, the TASS news agency reported.
However, US President Joe Biden said that Russian leader Vladimir Putin should be tried as a war criminal before international authorities.
Mr. Biden made the remarks to reporters on the White House lawn.
“We need to gather all the details” to “actually have a war crimes trial,” Mr. Biden said.
The attacks on civilians drew condemnations from other Western leaders, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling the incidents in Bucha “abhorrent” and adding that “we will not rest until justice is done”.
French President Emmanuel Macron said there was “clear evidence of war crimes” in Bucha requiring a new round of Russian sanctions.
“There is very strong evidence of war crimes. It is more or less certain that the Russian army is to blame [for the Bucha killings]’ Mr Macron told French media. Mr Macron suggested the new sanctions could target Russian oil and coal.
It comes as the UN Security Council prepares to discuss Ukraine on Tuesday. UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet told her Human Rights Council that strikes and heavy shelling during the Russian invasion killed civilians in acts that could amount to war crimes.
The United States will ask the UN General Assembly to bar Russia from the Human Rights Council, said US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the vulnerable and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now we are renewing our campaign and launching this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukraine crisis we urge the government to go further and faster to ensure aid is delivered. To learn more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. to sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate, then please click here for our GoFundMe page.
Additional reporting by agencies