As the fog of war lifted on Sunday morning over a liberated Kyiv region of Ukraine, the scale of alleged atrocities committed by retreating Russian troops in surrounding towns and villages has shocked the international community.
Hundreds of bodies lie scattered over the shrapnel-littered, burnt-out roads of towns and villages of Kyiv Oblast.
Russian troops, who had occupied large swathes of the region as they attempted to advance on Kyiv, have been accused by Ukrainian authorities of committing systematic murder, torture and rape of civilians.
At least 300 civilians executed
Bucha, a town 37km north-west of Kyiv, has been at the centre of intense fighting as a key battle zone in the defence of the capital. Since its liberation on 31 March by Ukrainian armed forces, graphic images depicting the horror left behind by the occupying Russian troops are surfacing.
Mass graves and the alleged widespread execution of civilians in the street, many with their hands tied behind their back, gives a picture of the cruelty. The mayor of Bucha, Anatoliy Fedoruk, stated that at least 300 civilians have been killed.
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According to surviving residents, many men who had stayed behind or had failed to escape the fighting were routinely executed without provocation or reason. There have also been numerous reports of sexual violence against women and girls, in some cases with naked bodies left on the streets.
Human Rights Watch confirmed it is collecting evidence of all war crimes perpetrated in the Kyiv, Kharkiv and Chernihiv regions, as well as documenting cases of rape and sexual violence being used as a weapon of war.
"Massacre was deliberate"
Speaking on Sunday night on the massacre of Bucha, President Zelenskyy called the Russian armed forces “butchers”.
“What did the man who was riding his bicycle down the street do?… I want all the leaders of the Russian Federation to see how their orders are being fulfilled… This is how the Russian state will now be perceived.” Zelenskyy said.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba said the “Bucha massacre was deliberate”, and called on the G7 to immediately implement ‘devastating’ sanctions.
EU promises more sanctions
EU leaders Ursula Von Der Leyen and Charles Michel reacted on Sunday echoing the widespread sentiments of horror and condemnation. Both EU leaders have accused Russia of committing war crimes, promising that “further EU sanctions and support are on their way”.
EU Foreign Policy Chief, Josep Borrell, has vowed that the EU will assist Ukraine in documenting war crimes and collecting evidence for prosecution in international courts.
German Vice-chancellor, Robert Habeck, added his voice to the calls for further sanctions in response to what he called “terrible war crimes”. Germany’s defence minister, Christine Lambrecht, said that an embargo on Russian oil and gas must now be properly discussed in response to the horrors of Bucha.