Ukraine has accused Russia of indiscriminately killing civilians and leaving their bodies strewn about the streets of suburbs they’ve abandoned in recent days.
Ukrainian prosecutor-general Iryna Venediktova said on Sunday the Ukrainian side had found the bodies of 410 civilians in towns in the Kyiv area that Ukraine had recently retaken from Russian forces, the Associated Press reported.
Associated Press reporters saw the bodies of 21 civilians left in one of the Kyiv-area towns, Bucha. Two had their hands tied behind their backs and another had their legs tied. In the western Kyiv-area town of Motyzhyn, the publication reported the bodies of four people found in a pit, with signs they were shot at close range. Those killed included the town’s mayor, her son and her husband, who had been bound and blindfolded.
Ukraine’s Centre for Strategic Communications and Information Security under the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy released video showing civilian bodies strewn across Bucha and Irpin.
Western officials have condemned the killings.
“We believe that Russian forces have committed war crimes and we’ve been working to document that, to provide the information that we have to the relevant institutions and organizations that will put all of this together, and there needs to be accountability for it,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, in a Sunday interview on CNN.
“The Russian authorities are responsible for these atrocities, committed while they had effective control of the area,” said Josep Borrell, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs. “The perpetrators of war crimes and other serious violations as well as the responsible government officials and military leaders will be held accountable.”
The civilian killings may even trigger new economic sanctions against Russia.
“I’m in favor of a new round of sanctions and in particular on coal and gasoline,” French President Emmanuel Macron said. “We need to act.”
Russia has denied responsibility for the civilian killings. On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the civilian killings in Bucha were staged after Russian troops left the area, in accordance with an announced Russian plan to reduce military action around Kyiv. The Russian government presented its military withdrawal from the Kyiv area as a move to “increase mutual trust and create conditions for further negotiations” with Ukraine.
“A fake attack was staged [in Bucha’ a few days later, and it’s being fomented on all channels and social media by Ukrainian representatives and their Western patrons,” Lavrov said, the Russian state-run TASS news agency reported.
Lavrov said Bucha Mayor Anatoly Fedoruk made no mention of the civilians when he shared a video message of Russian forces leaving the town on March 31. Lavrov said and the images of slain civilians only began to appear after members of Ukrainian Security Services had arrived in the town.
Last month, the U.S. government officially accused Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine, including attacks deliberately targeting civilians.