German minister lights candle in Bucha (VIDEO)
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock started her surprise visit to Ukraine by traveling on Tuesday to the town of Bucha, the site of alleged atrocities against civilians that Kiev attributes to Russian forces. Moscow considers the allegations to be part of a Ukrainian “smear campaign” against its military.
Baerbock has thus become the first member of the German government to visit Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian military offensive. She was welcomed by Ukrainian Prosecutor General Irina Venediktova.
According to the journalists accompanying Baerbock, who was escorted by heavily armed security guards, the Green Party minister used her visit to Bucha as a chance to speak with local residents.
Claiming that “the worst crimes imaginable” have been committed in the town, Baerbock said, as quoted by Die Welt: “That’s why it's incredibly important to me to be here today.”
Stressing the importance of a thorough investigation of the events in Bucha, the German minister said that this was something that the international community owed to the victims.
“And these victims, you also feel that so strongly here, we could be these victims,” she said.
Baerbock, who was sporting a flak jacket, visited a local church where she lit a candle to honor the victims of the conflict, and admitted that the contrast between everyday life in the town and the terrible events which allegedly took place there was striking.
“You see playgrounds, supermarkets, people going to work. And then you see the worst traces of crime right next to it,” she said.
A video posted on social media by ZDF correspondent Katrin Eigendorf features Baerbock watching footage of the alleged atrocities shown to her by a local priest.
Vater Andrej zeigt Außenministerin Baerbock ein Video von ermordeten Menschen aus seiner Gemeinde in #Butcha. Unfassbare Gräueltaten, von denen die Welt erfahren muss, sagt der Geistliche. #ukrainepic.twitter.com/tdawxbBC34— Katrin Eigendorf (@KEigendorf) May 10, 2022
Baerbock’s itinerary will also include a meeting with her Ukrainian counterpart, Dmitry Kuleba.
In April, Kiev accused Russia of genocide after revealing disturbing images of what it claimed to be evidence of Russian troops having deliberately killed civilians in Bucha, a town northwest of Kiev. Moscow denied the allegations and said Kiev was manipulating and fabricating evidence to frame Russian troops and undermine the peace process. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, in his turn, stressed that he was “deeply concerned” by the alleged “violation of human rights,” but stopped short of calling the events in Ukraine a “genocide,” explaining that this term “is strictly defined in international law.” He also noted that the International Criminal Court (ICC) was investigating the matter.
The German minister’s trip to Ukraine came a day after Victory Day, which is celebrated in former Soviet republics on May 9. Back in April, Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that Kiev had refused to host him, reportedly due to his good relations with Moscow. Later, Steinmeier held a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which the latter invited all of Germany’s leadership to visit Ukraine.
Russia attacked its neighbor in late February, following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.