RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN/AP) – Russia is facing global outrage following graphic photos and videos showing bodies of Ukrainian civilians on the streets of Bucha, an area 15 miles northwest of the capital city, Kyiv.
These streets were made accessible to Ukrainian forces once Russian troops pulled out from the outskirts of Kyiv.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited Bucha on Monday dressed in body armor in his first reported trip out of Kyiv since the war began nearly six weeks ago. Surrounded by Ukrainian soldiers, Velenskyy gave a national television address where he claimed the Russian military, “treated humans worse than animals.”
“These are war crimes and will be recognized by the world as genocide,” Zelenskyy said to members of the foreign press in Bucha.
The Ukrainian leader also said there are thousands of people who have been found dead, including civilians in Bucha who were “killed and tortured with severed limbs” or found dead “in barrels.” Zelenskyy also reported finding “raped women and murdered children.”
The visuals of battered bodies left out in the open or hastily buried led to calls for tougher sanctions against the Kremlin, namely a cutoff of fuel imports from Russia. Germany has reacted by expelling 40 Russian diplomats, and U.S. President Joe Biden said Russian leader Vladimir Putin should be tried for war crimes.
“This guy is brutal, and what’s happening in Bucha is outrageous,” Biden said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed the scenes outside Kyiv as a “stage-managed anti-Russian provocation.” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the images contained “signs of video forgery and various fakes.”
Russia has similarly rejected previous allegations of atrocities as fabrications on Ukraine’s part.
Ukrainian officials said the bodies of at least 410 civilians have been found in towns around Kyiv that were recaptured from Russian forces in recent days.
One of more than 4 million refugees fleeing Ukraine is Natalia Svitlova of Dnipro who has made it to Poland.
“This is a war of murders, a lot of blood. A lot of civilians are dying,” said Svitlova. “I don’t understand why this is possible in the 21st century and why no one can stop it.”
As these newly released images and video surface from Bucha, many warn that the full extent of the horrors has yet to emerge, including Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
“I can tell you without exaggeration but with great sorrow that the situation in Mariupol is much worse compared to what we’ve seen in Bucha and other cities, towns, and villages nearby Kyiv,” Kuleba said.
Western and Ukrainian leaders have accused Russia of war crimes before, and the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor has already opened an investigation.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the images from Bucha reveal the “unbelievable brutality of the Russian leadership and those who follow its propaganda.” And French President Emmanuel Macron said there is “clear evidence of war crimes” in Bucha that demand new punitive measures.
Though united in outrage, the European allies appear split on how to respond.