On April 3, Ukraine accused Russia of committing a massacre of the Ukrainian people located in Bucha, a city located north of Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital. The accusations arose following Russia’s retreat from Kyiv. Numerous images and videos being circulated show the violence Russian soldiers inflicted upon the Ukrainian citizens. Images show numerous atrocities, such as a picture of at least twenty male corpses, lining a singular street in Bucha. CNN reports that the majority of the victims’ hands were tied behind their backs and they were shot in the head, execution style. Images also show a man who died tangled up in his bicycle and another under a charred car. Russian forces occupied Bucha for almost 5 weeks before retreating after a failed attempt to capture Kyiv.
The New York Times reports that Russian troops impulsively and sadistically killed civilians during their ordinary daily activities. On March 5, retired teacher Auntie Lyuda was shot walking into her house, where her mentally disabled sister lay dead on the kitchen floor. Both of their bodies were untouched for another month. Later that same day, Bucha resident Ivan and his son were going for a walk down the street when his son was shot and killed, leaving behind two young children. Along with the mass killings, Russian soldiers also ransacked and destroyed numerous homes, such as a 65-year-old woman who was told to leave her house while Russian soldiers stole almost everything she had.
The violence inflicted upon Ukrainian civilians by Russian troops has resulted in many individuals staying in shelters and homes and leaving dead bodies where they lay. As Ukrainian forces take back territory, they are faced with figuring out where to put all of these bodies, resulting in an increase of mass graves throughout the region. The Washington Post talked with Bucha’s mayor, Anatoly Fedoruk, who said that approximately 270 residents are buried in mass graves, and almost 40 corpses still litter the streets.
Human Rights Watch has also documented multiple cases of war crimes, including rape, murder, looting and other acts of violence throughout Bucha and other Russian controlled territories. HRW discusses an account of the attack of an unnamed, 31-year-old Ukrainian woman, located in the Khariv region, who was hiding out in a school with her brother, sister, mother, and 5-year-old daughter when Russian troops invaded the building. She was isolated from her family and repeatedly raped and beaten by a 20-year-old solider. HRW has also seen a large target placed upon young Ukrainian men, with many civilians accounting that their sons, nephews, and grandsons have been taken into questioning and not returned or slaughtered in the streets. The Human Rights Watch Director for Europe and Central Asia, Hugh Williamson, stated that Russia’s act of violence “against people in the Russia forces’ custody should be investigated as war crimes.”
In an exclusive interview with CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy referred to the conflict as “genocide.” He says, “We are the citizens of Ukraine; we have more than 100 nationalities. This is about the destruction and extermination of all these nationalities.” Zelensky also called for more assurances of support from countries in the West and stated that he is willing to accept nothing less than a complete withdrawal of Russian troops in Ukraine, reasoning that a ceasefire would be the starting point for any talks of resolution. According to Reuters, “Russia’s defense ministry denied the Ukrainian allegations” and are saying that the photos and videos released were “yet another provocation” for further violence put on by the Ukrainian government.
The discoveries have prompted outrage by Western leaders. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the news as a “punch to the gut,” According to the Washington Post, he plans to meet with European leaders to advocate for more sanctions. Similar sentiments were expressed by other world leaders, including the British and German Prime ministers and the German Chancellor. CNBC confirms that U.S. President Joe Biden has followed in Zelensky’s footsteps when referring to these crimes as acts of genocide, and on Monday April 4 he described Putin as a “war criminal” who should be put on trial. In response to these worldwide allegations, the United Nations is conducting an independent investigation, alongside the International Criminal Court.