Russia attacks Ukraine: Alleged atrocities are ‘punch to the gut’; 410 bodies removed

BUCHA, Ukraine — The discovery of civilians’ bodies in a suburb of Kyiv has caused international condemnation and calls for an investigation into possible Russian war crimes, according to media reports.

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Reports of atrocities in the Ukrainian city of Bucha, where bodies were found on the streets, emerged after Russian troops withdrew from towns they seized during the early stages of their invasion of Ukraine, The Washington Post reported.

Update 3:57 p.m. EDT April 3: Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said the mayor of the village of Motyzhyn, near Kyiv, was murdered while being held by Russian forces, according to The Associated Press. Vereshchuk said that there are 11 mayors and community heads in Russian captivity across Ukraine.

Update 2:45 p.m. EDT April 3: Ukraine Prosecutor-General Iryna Venediuktova said the bodies of 410 civilians have been removed from towns surrounding Kyiv that were retaken from Russia, according to The Associated Press.

Venediktova said 140 of the bodies had been examined via a televised appearance on Sunday, The Guardian reported.

U.N. secretary-general António Guterres called for an independent investigation.

Original report: Bucha Mayor Anatoly Fedoruk told the newspaper that about 270 residents had been buried in two graves and estimated that 40 bodies were strewn on the streets.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken decried the grim images reported by photographers and video teams in the area. Footage posted by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry and photographs from The New York Times and Agence France-Presse showed some bodies with their hands bound behind their backs.

“You can’t help but see these images as a punch to the gut,” Blinken told CNN on Sunday. “Since the aggression, we’ve come out and said that we believe that Russian forces have committed war crimes, and we’ve been working to document that, to provide the information we have to the relevant instructions and organizations that will put all of this together. And there needs to be accountability for it.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the Bucha scenes reflected “brutality against civilians we haven’t seen in Europe for decades.”

Associated Press journalists in Bucha said they saw the bodies of at least nine people in civilian clothes who appeared to have been killed at close range. At least two had their hands tied behind their backs, according to the AP.

President Emmanuel Macron of France called the images “unbearable.”

“In the streets, hundreds of civilians were murdered in a cowardly way,” Macron said in a tweet on Sunday, adding, “The Russian authorities will have to answer for these crimes.”

Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, called the actions of the Russian army “acts of genocide,” the Times reported. He called for a meeting of European heads of state “as soon as possible” to impose “effective sanctions” on Russia.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense denied there had been atrocities committed, calling the images “staged,”according to the Times. In a statement, the ministry said that “not a single” civilian had been injured in Bucha.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Great Britain condemned “Russia’s despicable attacks against innocent civilians in Irpin and Bucha,” saying in a statement that President Putin “is desperate” and “his invasion is failing.” Johnson added that “Ukraine’s resolve has never been stronger.”

Bodies were first buried in a mass grave on the grounds of the Church of St. Andrew and Pyervozvannoho All Saints during the first days of the invasion, residents told CNN.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the Russian attack was comparable to genocide, the Post reported.

“We are being destroyed and exterminated, and this is happening in the Europe of the 21st century,” Zelenskyy said on CBS “Face the Nation,” adding that “the military commanders, everyone who gave instructions and orders, should be punished adequately” for the alleged killings.

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