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Ukraine accuses Russia of massacre, a city littered with corpses

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BUCHA, Ukraine — Bodies with bound hands, point-blank gunshot wounds and signs of torture lay strewn across a town on the outskirts of kyiv after Russian troops withdrew from the area. Ukrainian authorities accused the departing forces on Sunday of committing war crimes and leaving behind a “scene from a horror movie”.

As images of the bodies – of people who locals say had been killed indiscriminately – began to emerge from Bucha, a host of European leaders condemned the atrocities and called for tougher sanctions on Moscow.

The bodies of 410 civilians have been removed from towns in the Kyiv region that were recently retaken from Russian forces, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said.

Associated Press reporters saw the bodies of at least 21 people at various locations around Bucha, northwest of the capital. A group of nine people, all in civilian clothes, were scattered around a site that locals said Russian troops were using as a base. They appeared to have been shot at close range. At least two of them had their hands tied behind their backs and one of them was shot in the head; another’s legs were tied.

Ukrainian officials have blamed the killings – which they say occurred in Bucha and other kyiv suburbs – at the feet of Russian troops, with the president calling them evidence of genocide. But the Russian Ministry of Defense rejected the charges of “provocation”.

The findings followed the Russian withdrawal from the area around the capital, territory which has seen heavy fighting since troops invaded Ukraine from three directions on February 24. The troops that swept north through Belarus spent weeks trying to force their way into kyiv, but their advance stalled in the face of resolute defense by Ukrainian forces.

Moscow now says it is focusing its offensive on the east of the country, but it has also besieged a northern city and continued to strike cities elsewhere in a war that has already forced more than 4 million Ukrainians to flee their country and many others. to leave their home.

Russian troops arrived at Bucha in the early days of the invasion and remained standing on March 30. After those forces left, residents gave heartbreaking accounts on Sunday, saying soldiers shot and killed civilians for no apparent reason.

A resident, who declined to be named fearing for his safety, said Russian troops were going from building to building and pulling people out of basements where they were hiding, checking their phones for any evidence of anti-terrorism activity. Russian and taking them away or shooting them.

Hanna Herega, a resident of Bucha, said Russian troops fired on a neighbor who had gone out to get firewood for heating.

“He went to get some wood when all of a sudden they (the Russians) started shooting. They hit him a little above the heel, crushing the bone, and he fell,” Herega said. “Then they shot his left leg all the way, with the boot. Then they shot him all over (the chest). And another shot went slightly below the temple. It was a controlled shot to the head .

The AP also saw two bodies, that of a man and a woman, wrapped in plastic which locals said they covered and placed in a well until a proper funeral could be arranged.

The resident who declined to be identified said the man was killed as he left a house.

“He put his hands up and they shot him,” he said.

Oleksiy Arestovych, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said dozens of residents were found killed on the streets of Irpin and Hostomel suburbs as well as Bucha, in what looked like a “scene from a movie of horror”.

He alleged that some of the women found dead were raped before they were killed and that the Russians then burned the bodies.

“This is genocide,” Zelenskyy told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

But the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that the photos and videos of corpses “were staged by the kyiv regime for Western media.” He noted that the mayor of Bucha had not mentioned any abuse a day after the departure of Russian troops.

The prosecution ministry said “not a single civilian faced violent action from the Russian military” in Bucha.

Over the weekend, AP reporters saw Ukrainian soldiers carefully removing at least six bodies from a street in Bucha with cables in case the Russians had any bodies booby-trapped with explosives before their removal.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko called on other nations to immediately end imports of Russian gas, saying they were funding the killings.

“No more pennies should go to Russia,” Klitschko told German newspaper Bild. “It’s blood money used to slaughter people. The oil and gas embargo must happen immediately.”

Officials in France, Germany, Italy, Estonia and the UK separately condemned what was described and vowed that Russia would be held accountable.

“This is not a battlefield, this is a crime scene,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas tweeted.

Authorities said they were documenting evidence to add to their case to prosecute Russian officials for war crimes.

As Russian forces retreated from the area around the capital, they reinforced their sieges in other parts of the country. Russia said it was leading troops to Donbass in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years.

In this region, Mariupol, a port on the Sea of ​​Azov that saw some of the greatest suffering of the war, remained isolated. Around 100,000 civilians – less than a quarter of the pre-war population of 430,000 – would be trapped there with little or no food, water, fuel and medicine.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Sunday that a team sent on Saturday to help evacuate residents had yet to reach the town.

Ukrainian authorities said Russia agreed days ago to allow safe passage from the city, but similar agreements have repeatedly been broken under continued shelling.

A supermarket parking lot in the Ukrainian town of Zaporizhzhia, meanwhile, has become the gathering place to help successful people.

Peycheva Olena, who fled the besieged city, told Britain’s Sky News she was forced to leave her husband’s body unburied when he was shot and killed.

“There were bombardments, and we tried to train him but it was too much, we couldn’t,” explained his daughter, Kristina Katrikova.

The mayor of Chernihiv, also under attack for weeks, said on Sunday that relentless Russian shelling had destroyed 70% of the northern city. As in Mariupol, Chernihiv was cut off from deliveries of food and other supplies.

On Sunday morning, Russian forces launched missiles at the Black Sea port of Odessa in southern Ukraine, sending clouds of black smoke that veiled parts of the city. The Russian military said the targets were an oil processing plant and fuel depots around Odessa, which is Ukraine’s largest port and home to its navy.

Odessa city council said Ukrainian air defenses shot down missiles before they hit the city. Ukrainian army spokesman Vladyslav Nazarov said the attack caused no casualties.

The Kharkiv regional governor said on Sunday that Russian artillery and tanks had carried out more than 20 strikes on Ukraine’s second-largest city and its outskirts in the northeast of the country over the past day.

The head of Ukraine’s delegation in talks with Russia says Moscow negotiators informally agreed to most of a draft proposal discussed in face-to-face talks in Istanbul this week, but no written confirmation has been forthcoming. has been provided.

Ukrainian negotiator Davyd Arakhamia told Ukrainian television he hoped the proposal was developed enough for Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet to discuss it. But Russia’s top negotiator in talks with Ukraine, Vladimir Medinksy, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying it was too early to talk about a meeting between the two leaders.

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