PRESIDENT Volodymyr Zelensky fought back tears as he visited the town of Bucha where Vladimir Putin’s troops have been accused of butchering civilians and burying them in mass graves.
The Ukrainian leader, who was visibly emotional, was flanked by security as he vowed to ensure that the “war crimes” committed by Russian soldiers on his country’s soil were “the last such evil on Earth”.
Harrowing pictures from the city, to the north-west of the capital Kyiv, showed the bodies of civilians scattered in the road and in shallow graves — many with bound hands and signs of torture.
Some of them, from the wounds they had suffered, had been shot from close range.
A satellite image taken of Bucha at the end of last month, when Russian forces were in control of the city, shows a 45ft long mass grave dug behind a church.
Ukrainian and Western leaders have accused Russia of carrying out the massacre of civilians and dumping their bodies in makeshift burial plots.
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One pit in the region is said to contain at least 57 people.
Zelensky wore a bullet-proof vest as he toured the area of devastation with a security team.
He said: “Indeed, this is genocide. The elimination of the whole nation and the people.
“We are the citizens of Ukraine. We have more than 100 nationalities. This is about the destruction and extermination of all these nationalities.”
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He stressed that “every crime of the occupiers on the territory of our state” would be investigated.
Vowing that war criminals would be brought to justice, he added: “Everyone guilty of such crimes will be entered in a special Book of Executioners… [they] will be found and punished.
“The world has seen many war crimes. The time has come to make the war crimes committed by Russian troops the last such evil on Earth.”
He added: “It’s very difficult to talk when you see what they’ve done here.A satellite image shows a mass grave in the Ukrainian town of Bucha[/caption] Bodies lie on a street in the town northwest of Kyiv, as the UK investigates war crimes[/caption] A picture from March 10 shows before the mass grave was dug[/caption]
“The longer the Russian Federation drags out the meeting process, the worse it is for them and for this situation and for this war.
“We know of thousands of people killed and tortured, with severed limbs, raped women and murdered children.”
He said that in Bucha, and surrounding regions, “dead people have been found in barrels, basements, strangled, tortured”.
But despite the devastating human suffering in Bucha, residents were chipping in to make sure homeless animals were fed.
Zelensky said: “That’s a characteristic trait of our people, I think — treat animals the way you would treat humans.
“But you can see what was done to this modern town. That’s a characteristic of Russian soldiers — treat people worse than animals.
“That is real genocide, what you have seen here today.”
Ukraine’s prosecutor-general said the bodies of 410 civilians have been recovered from towns surrounding Kyiv after last week’s withdrawal of Russian troops.
In total, 161 children have died and 264 have been injured since the Russian invasion, according to Ukrainian officials.
Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Zelensky, said scores of dead civilians were found on the streets of Bucha and the Kyiv suburbs of Irpin and Hostomel in what looked like a “scene from a horror movie”.
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Survivors said some bodies on the streets had been run over by Russian tanks and “squashed”.
A mass grave containing the bodies of at least 20 civilians including a mayor and her family were uncovered in woodland near the town of Motzyhn, around 20 miles west of Bucha.
Ukraine’s former ambassador to Austria, Olexander Scherba, said that the pit contained the bodies of local official Olga Sukhenko who was buried along with her husband and son.
Tetyana Volodymyrivna, who lives in Bucha, spoke of the horror of finding her murdered husband.
She said: “I recognised him by his sneakers, his trousers.
“He looked mutilated, his body was cold.”
Last night US President Joe Biden called for Putin to face a war crimes trial and said he would seek more sanctions against the country after the reported atrocities.
And Boris Johnson warned that the sickening images are evidence that Russia is committing war crimes in Ukraine.
The PM said Britain will step up sanctions and military aid in response.
He added: “No denial or disinformation from the Kremlin can hide what we all know to be the truth — Putin is desperate, his invasion is failing, and Ukraine’s resolve has never been stronger.
“We are stepping up our sanctions and military support, as well as bolstering our humanitarian support package to help those in need on the ground.
“The UK has been at the forefront of supporting the International Criminal Court’s investigation into atrocities committed in Ukraine.
“The Justice Secretary has authorised additional financial support and the deployment of specialist investigators – we will not rest until justice is served.”A dead civilian is found lying in the road with his hands tied behind his back[/caption] Neighbours gather next to a mass grave in Bucha[/caption] Wladimir Klitschko posted a video of executed civilians in Bucha[/caption]
Ukraine’s emergencies service said more than 1,500 explosives had been found in one day during a search of the village of Dmytrivka, west of the capital.
In Bucha, AFP journalists said at least nine bodies appeared to have been executed, including two whose hands were tied behind their backs.
Three were naked from the waist up while another man had his Ukrainian passport left open beside him.
Officials said bodies had not been collected because of fears Russians had booby-trapped them.
President Zelensky told the US news channel CBS: “They are mining all this territory.
“Houses are mined, equipment is mined, even the bodies of dead people.
Military expert Michael Clarke said there was no strategic benefit “whatsoever” for Vladimir Putin to order a massacre in the area as his troops retreat towards Belarus.
He told Sky News it suggests Russian troops rounded people up according to lists “like the Gestapo”.
“Some of these killings might have been as examples to the villages or revenge, but a lot of it, one suspects, is troops out of control.”
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss called for the attacks to be “investigated as war crimes” insisting: “We will not allow Russia to cover up their involvement in these atrocities through cynical disinformation.”
Referring to towns on the outskirts of Kyiv, she said: “As Russian troops are forced into retreat, we are seeing increasing evidence of appalling acts by the invading forces in towns such as Irpin and Bucha.
“Their indiscriminate attacks against innocent civilians during Russia’s illegal and unjustified invasion of Ukraine must be investigated as war crimes.”
Melinda Simmons, Britain’s ambassador to Ukraine, blasted: “Rape is a weapon of war. Though we don’t yet know the full extent of its use in Ukraine, it’s already clear it was part of an arsenal.
“Women raped in front of their kids, girls in front of their families, as a deliberate act of subjugation. Rape is a war crime.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the images a “punch in the gut” and that those responsible must be held accountable.
A US State Department spokesman hinted at additional action against Russia coming “very soon”.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also vowed harder-hitting sanctions.Lt Colonel Azatbek Omurbekov was named online as the commander of occupying forces in Bucha[/caption] The lifeless body of a Russian soldier lies on the ground in Bucha, in the outskirts of Kyiv, on Saturday[/caption] Communal workers collect the bodies of two men killed during Russian army shelling of the town of Bucha[/caption] The lifeless body of a man with his hands tied behind his back lies on the ground in Bucha on Sunday[/caption]
The International Criminal Court in The Hague has already opened a probe into possible war crimes committed in Ukraine.
Several Western leaders, including President Biden, have accused Russia’s Vladimir Putin of being a “war criminal”.
Human Rights Watch also said it had documented cases of Russian troops committing possible war crimes against civilians in occupied areas of Chernigiv, Kharkiv, and Kyiv, including rape and summary execution.
It comes as Ukraine said it had regained control of the Kyiv region, with Russian troops retreating from around the capital and Chernigiv city.
Ukrainian officials said on Saturday that their forces had taken back more than 30 towns and villages around Kyiv, claiming complete control of the capital region for the first time since Russia launched its invasion.
“The whole Kyiv region is liberated from the invader,” Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar wrote on Facebook.
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After more than five weeks of brutal fighting, Russia is understood to have regrouped for battles in eastern Ukraine.
Moscow denies targeting civilians and rejects war crimes allegations.
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