Russia has denied killing civilians in the Ukrainian city of Bucha and denounced the allegation by Kiev as “yet another provocation.”
Kiev on Sunday urged major Western powers, including the United States, to impose crippling fresh sanctions on Moscow over what it called a “massacre” in Bucha, a newly liberated town 37 kilometers northwest of the capital.
In a video message on Saturday, the mayor of Bucha, Anatoliy Fedoruk, claimed that 300 people had been killed by the Russian army with some appearing to have been bound by their hands and feet before being shot.
He also presented footage and photographs showing the dead bodies of those allegedly killed or executed by Russian troops, claiming that 280 bodies had been buried in mass graves while nearly 10 others were either unburied or only partially covered by earth.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian forces were committing “genocide” in Bucha and his Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba labeled it a “deliberate massacre.”
The allegations of “mass graves” and “executed” civilians caused growing anger in Western capitals. Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the European Union all called for those responsible to be brought to book at the international tribunal in The Hague.
Later on Sunday, Russia’s Defense Ministry in a statement denied the allegation and condemned it as “yet another allegation” and a “staged performance” by the Ukrainian government, saying that all Russian military units had left the town on March 30.
“All the photos and videos published by the Kiev regime, allegedly testifying to the 'crimes' of Russian servicemen in the city of Bucha, Kiev region, are another provocation. During the time that Russian armed forces were in control of this settlement, not a single local resident suffered from any violent actions. Russian servicemen delivered and issued 452 tons of humanitarian aid to civilians in the settlements of the Kiev region,” the statement read.
The ministry said that during the time Bucha was under the control of Russian forces, inhabitants of the town could freely move around and use cellular communications. It added that exits from Bucha were not been blocked so that all local residents could freely leave the town in the northern direction, including to Belarus.
“The southern outskirts of the city, including residential areas, were shelled around the clock by Ukrainian troops from large-caliber artillery, tanks and multiple rocket launchers. We would like to emphasize especially that all Russian units completely withdrew from Bucha on March 30, the day after the face-to-face round of negotiations between Russia and Ukraine in Turkey,” the Russian Defense Ministry stated.
The statement said Fedoruk himself on March 31 confirmed that no Russian military was in the town and that he did not even mention any local residents shot in the streets with their hands tied.
“Therefore, it is not surprising that all the so-called 'evidence of crimes' in Bucha appeared only on the fourth day, when SBU [Security Service of Ukraine] officers and representatives of Ukrainian television arrived in the city,” it added.
“Of particular concern is the fact that all the bodies of people whose images were published by the Kiev regime, after at least four days, have not stiffened, do not have characteristic cadaveric spots, and blood has not turned up in the wounds. All this irrefutably confirms that the photos and video frames from Bucha are another staged performance by the Kiev regime for the Western media, as it was in Mariupol with the maternity hospital, as well as in other cities,” the defense ministry said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” on February 24 to demilitarize Donetsk and Luhansk, largely populated by ethnic Russians, in eastern Ukraine. The United States and its European allies have labeled the military operation as “Putin’s land grab,” imposing unprecedented sanctions on Moscow.