Global outcry at civilian killings near Kyiv, war’s focus shifts east

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Reuters/dpa/warcrimes – According to Ukrainian media reports, well over 300 civilian bodies were recovered after the massacre in the city of Bucha near Kyiv. By Sunday evening, 330 to 340 lifeless bodies had already been collected, the newspaper Ukrajinska Pravda wrote on Monday, citing a funeral service. The search for more victims continued on Monday. Some bodies were buried in backyards, it said.

The images from the capital’s suburban community, where numerous bodies of residents were found on the streets after Russian troops withdrew, caused international outrage. Ukraine blames the massacre on Russian troops who until recently occupied the city. Moscow denies that.

Bodies of Ukrainian civilians killed in the Russian invasion lie on a street in the small city of Bucha of Kyiv (Kiev) area, Ukraine, 03 April 2022. Some cities and villages had recently been recaptured by the Ukrainian army from Russian forces. EPA-EFE/MIKHAIL PALINCHAK

On Sunday, the Ukrainian side had already reported the discovery of a mass grave with around 280 dead who could not have been buried with dignity during the Russian attacks. The Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office announced an autopsy of the bodies to solve the crime. International investigators are also to be involved. In total, the bodies of more than 400 dead civilians are said to have been recovered in the Kiev region.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the images as “a punch in the gut,” while United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an independent investigation.

“Putin and his supporters will feel the consequences,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, adding that Western allies would agree on further sanctions in the coming days.

Germany’s Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said the European Union must discuss banning the import of Russian gas – a departure from Berlin’s prior resistance to that idea.

Men take away bodies of Ukrainian civilians killed in the Russian invasion, on a street in the small city of Bucha of Kyiv (Kiev) area, Ukraine, 03 April 2022. Some cities and villages had recently been recaptured by the Ukrainian army from Russian forces.
EPA-EFE/MIKHAIL PALINCHAK ATTENTION: GRAPHIC CONTENT

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that a new round of sanctions targetting Russia were needed and that there were clear indications Russian forces were responsible for the killings of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.

“There are very clear clues pointing to war crimes. It is more or less established that the Russian army is responsible (for the Bucha killings),” Macron told France Inter radio.

“What happened in Bucha demands a new round of sanctions and very clear measures,” Macron added.

Those new sanctions should target coal and oil, said Macron who faces a re-election battle this month.

Ukrainian authorities were investigating possible war crimes by Russia after finding hundreds of bodies, some bound and shot at close range, strewn around towns near Kyiv after Kremlin forces withdrew to refocus their attacks in other parts of the country.

The U.N. Security Council will discuss Ukraine on Tuesday and will not meet on Monday as requested by Russia, said Britain’s mission to the United Nations, which holds the presidency of the 15-member council for April. 

Russia had requested the Security Council convene on Monday to discuss what it called a “provocation by Ukrainian radicals” in Bucha after Kyiv’s accusations.

Russia has previously denied targeting civilians and has rejected allegations of war crimes in what it calls a “special military operation” aimed at demilitarising and “denazifying” Ukraine. Ukraine says it was invaded without provocation.

Human Rights Watch said it had documented “several cases of Russian military forces committing laws-of-war violations” in the Ukrainian regions of Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Kyiv.

Ukraine’s foreign minister called on the International Criminal Court to collect evidence of what he called Russian war crimes. The foreign ministers of France and Britain said their countries would support any such probe.

However, legal experts say a prosecution of Putin or other Russian leaders would face high hurdles and could take years.

WAR IN THE SOUTH AND EAST

Across the country, Ukraine was preparing for what its general staff said were about 60,000 Russian reservists called in to reinforce the offensive there, while British military intelligence also said Russian troops, including mercenaries from the state-linked Wagner private military company, were moving to the east.

Reuters could not independently confirm the claims.

Shelling in the eastern city of Kharkiv killed some 50 people, local authorities said, while missiles struck near the southern port of Odesa on Sunday, with Russia saying it had destroyed an oil refinery used by the Ukrainian military. The Odesa city council said “critical infrastructure facilities” were hit.

Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of eastern Luhansk region, said Russia was building up forces to break through Ukrainian defences. 

“I am urging residents to evacuate. The enemy will not stop, it will destroy everything in its path,” he said in comments carried on Ukrainian television. 

Ukraine says it has evacuated thousands of civilians in recent days from the port city of Mariupol, which has been decimated from a siege and bombardment over a month, with only the skeletons of residential tower blocks remaining on some streets after the shelling, Reuters images showed. 

Reuters correspondents saw convoys of armoured vehicles belonging to pro-Russia forces near Mariupol.

Ukraine evacuated more than 2,600 people from Mariupol and the region of Luhansk on Sunday, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said. Ukrainian officials were in talks with Russia to allow several Red Cross buses to enter Mariupol, she added.

The Red Cross abandoned earlier attempts due to security concerns. Russia blamed the charity for the delays.

There was little sign of a breakthrough in efforts to negotiate an end to the war, although Russia’s chief negotiator, Vladimir Medinsky, said talks were due to resume on Monday via videoconference. 

(Additional reporting by Zohra Bensemra and Abdelaziz Boumzar in Bucha, Pavel Polityuk in Lviv, Issam Abdallah in Odesa, Natalia Zinets in Mukachevo, Lidia Kelly in Melbourne, Michelle Nichols at the UN and Reuters bureaus in Europe and WashingtonWriting by Lincoln Feast and Frank Jack DanielEditing by Michael Perry and John Stonestreet)

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