Russia denies Ukraine war-crimes allegations
The Russian military has firmly denied accusations of its involvement in the mass killings of civilians in Bucha, a Ukrainian town northwest of Kiev. The claims have been made by Ukraine itself, and amplified by some Western media outlets and human rights groups, some days after Moscow withdrew its troops from the area.
Russian troops had been pulled out from the area on March 30, the military said, on Sunday, pointing out that “the so-called ‘evidence of crimes’ in Bucha appeared only on the fourth day” after the withdrawal, when Ukrainian intelligence and “representatives of Ukrainian television arrived in the town.”
“All photographs and video materials published by the Kiev regime, allegedly showing some kind of "crimes" by Russian military personnel in the town of Bucha, Kiev region, are yet another provocation,” the Russian Ministry of Defense added.
“Moreover, on March 31 the mayor of Bucha, Anatoly Fedoruk, confirmed in his video address that there was no Russian military in the town, but did not even mention any local residents laying shot in the streets with their hands tied,” the military also pointed out.
“It’s particularity concerning that all the bodies of people whose images were published by the Kiev regime, after at least four days, have not stiffened, do not have characteristic cadaveric spots, and have fresh blood in their wounds,” the military noted, adding that all these inconsistencies show that the whole Bucha affair “has been staged by the Kiev regime for Western media, as was the case with the [fake news from the] Mariupol maternity clinic.”
Graphic footage from Bucha shows multiple bodies in civilian clothing lying in the middle of a street. Some of the dead apparently had their hands tied, while others were white armbands, commonly used by Russian forces and civilians in areas under Russian control.
Kiev has blamed the Bucha killings on Moscow, with Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba claiming it was a "deliberate massacre" by Russian troops.
“The Bucha massacre was deliberate. Russians aim to eliminate as many Ukrainians as they can. We must stop them and kick them out. I demand new, devastating G7 sanctions NOW,” Kuleba wrote on Twitter.
Top Western politicians have backed Kiev’s assessment of Bucha, with some explicitly pinning the blame for the killings on Moscow as well. “Russian authorities will have to answer for these crimes,” French President Emmanuel Macron said.
A similar stance was voiced by the UK, with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss stating that such “indiscriminate attacks” on civilians should be probed as war crimes. “We will not allow Russia to cover up their involvement in these atrocities through cynical disinformation,” she said.
Moscow launched a large-scale offensive against its neighbor in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements signed in 2014, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols had been designed to regularize the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military alliance. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two rebel regions by force.