KYIV -- Global outrage built on Tuesday (April 5) as more evidence came to light of the extent of atrocities committed by Russian troops in Ukraine after they retreated from areas around the capital of Kyiv.
Local authorities said they had been forced to dig communal graves to bury the dead accumulating in the streets, including some found with their hands bound behind their backs, in scenes that sent shock waves around the world more than a month into Russia's invasion.
Despite Russian denials of responsibility, condemnation was swift, with world leaders, NATO and the United Nations (UN) all voicing horror at reports of civilian murders in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, and elsewhere.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday was unsparing in his nightly video message, warning "concentrated evil has come to our land".
Switching to Russian, he continued: "I want every mother of every Russian soldier to see the bodies of the people killed in Bucha, in Irpin, in Hostomel."
"I want all the leaders of the Russian Federation to see how their orders are being fulfilled."
At a news conference on March 11, Russian prisoners of war (POWs) confirmed that the Kremlin has been committing war crimes as part of its invasion of Ukraine.
Three Russian airmen captured by Ukrainian forces said at the news conference they were thrown into battle like cannon fodder and given orders to deliberately attack civilians.
Zelenskyy said he had created a special body to investigate killings in areas from which Russian troops have withdrawn around the capital, as Moscow refocuses its energies on southeastern Ukraine.
The scale of the killings is still being pieced together, but Ukrainian prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova said 410 civilian bodies had been recovered so far.
And Bucha mayor Anatoly Fedoruk told AFP that 280 bodies were placed in mass graves because it was impossible to bury them in cemeteries within firing range.
Satellite imagery firm Maxar released pictures it said showed a mass grave on the the grounds of a church in the town.
Municipal worker Serhii Kaplychnyi told AFP that Russian troops initially refused to allow residents to bury the dead in Bucha.
"They said while it was cold to let them lie there."
Eventually, they were able to retrieve the bodies, he said. "We dug a mass grave with a tractor and buried everyone."
AFP reporters in the town saw at least 20 bodies, all in civilian clothing, strewn across a single street.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba accused Russia of a "deliberate massacre", while Zelenskyy's spokesman, Sergiy Nikiforov, said the killings in Bucha "look exactly like war crimes".
Russia's Defence Ministry pushed back, saying "not a single local resident" in Bucha suffered violence.
It accused Kyiv of falsifying images of corpses in "another production" for Western media.
But Russia has a history of deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure -- including hospitals -- in Syria and Chechnya.
"What is happening in Ukraine is a repetition of what we have seen in Syria," Agnes Callamard, secretary general of Amnesty International, told AFP in March.
In both Ukraine and Syria, Russian forces routinely bombed hospitals and targeted civilians.
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet voiced horror Monday at images of dead bodies in Bucha and warned of possible war crimes.
The deaths have heightened calls for new measures against Russia.
On Monday, European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc was urgently discussing a new round of sanctions.
Borrell also offered EU assistance in documenting evidence of the alleged atrocities committed in Ukraine.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he was in favour of fresh sanctions.
"There are very clear indications of war crimes. It was the Russian army that was in Bucha," Macron told the France Inter broadcaster.
New measures could target the oil and coal industries, he said.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said new sanctions would be decided "in the coming days", with his defence minister raising the possibility of an end to gas imports.
"[Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin and his supporters will feel the consequences," Scholz said.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Monday called for an international investigation into what he termed a "genocide".
And Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said his country "will do everything... to deal with these alleged cases of (crimes against) humanity, war crimes and why not say it too, genocide".
During a visit Monday to Poland, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi also condemned the "exceptionally cruel" violence against civilians near Kyiv.
When I hear such news, it makes me sad and gives me mental torture as to why do humans are thirsty for each other's blood? Why don't they respect each other's rights? I would not like to say more about Ukraine and Russia because many things have been written on this and others will do it too, but as much as I have heard about the killings during the 26 years of my life, I am sure it would lessen half of my life. Since my childhood, fighting has been going on in our country, and one person comes and kills the other. It makes one tired. When will the fighting get stopped? When will human beings choose humanity over barbarism? I hate the news of killings anymore. May the machines that make fighting instruments get broken.Reply
Continues... “The relevant circumstances and specific causes of the incident should be verified and determined," Zhang said in the Security Council on Tuesday, in regards to Ukraine, adding that, “before the full picture is clear, all sides should exercise restraint and avoid unfounded accusations." So far, China has not condemned Russia's military invasion of Ukraine, and the Associated Press reports that the release of images of civilian casualties in Bucha, which is considered a "massacre", may complicate China's efforts to control public opinion and mentality about Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Since the beginning of the Russian military invasion of Ukraine, China has continuously called for negotiations to resolve the crisis. Beijing has also opposed to the economic sanctions on Russia, accusing the United States and NATO of inciting and keeping the war burning by sending weapons to Ukraine. According to a report by the Associated Press, the Chinese Communist Party, which controls the country's media, broadcasts in favor of Russia and even propagates Russia's misinformation and views on the Ukraine war. US President Joe Biden once again called Russian President Vladimir Putin a "war criminal", following the release of photos of the civilians’ bodies in Bucha, and called for his trial. European countries have also described the incident as a "war crime". Russia has denied the accusations, calling the images of Bucha "fake". Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, andReply
China calls for probe into killings in Bucha, Ukraine A report from VOA - Dari The Chinese government has called for an investigation into the killings of civilians in Bucha city, near the Ukrainian capital Ukrainian, but it has not criticized or condemned any party related to the killings. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijan told reporters on Wednesday (April 6), that civilian casualties in Bucha were "deeply disturbing", but the blames and accusations must be avoided until the investigations are completed. A few days ago, Russian troops withdrew from Bucha, and then officials and locals reported that after Russian forces withdrew from the city, they found more than 400 bodies on the streets and neighborhoods of the city, in civilian clothes with hands tied from behind. “The truth and the cause of the incident must be verified," the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said. “All parties should exercise restraint and avoid unfounded accusations before a conclusion of the investigation is drawn." This comes as Ukraine says Russia has carried out a civilian "massacre" in Bucha. However, China supports all initiatives and measures “conducive to alleviating the humanitarian crisis” in Ukraine, and is “ready to continue to work together with the international community to prevent any harm to civilians”, foreign ministry spokesperson said. China's ambassador to the United Nations, Zhang Jun, had called earlier for an investigation, also describing the reports and imagesReply