Russia's 'Bucha Massacre' in Ukraine a war crime, Lapid says

Dozens of corpses were found in the streets of Bucha • Foreign Minister: Massacre was deliberate • Ukraine planning scheduled evacuations

 A view shows a railway bridge over the Irpin river destroyed by heavy shelling, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in the town of Irpin, in Kyiv region, Ukraine March 29, 2022.  (photo credit: REUTERS/SERHII MYHALCHUK)
A view shows a railway bridge over the Irpin river destroyed by heavy shelling, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in the town of Irpin, in Kyiv region, Ukraine March 29, 2022.

Corpses found in Bucha near Kyiv, drawing international condemnation 

Dozens of corpses were found in the streets of Bucha, outside of Kyiv, shortly after Ukraine retook the town from Russian forces, AFP News Agency reported Saturday night.

Mayor Anatoly Fedoruk told AFP in a phone call that the streets of Bucha were "littered with corpses" and that 280 bodies have been collected and buried in mass graves since the location was retaken by the Ukrainian military.

Ukraine claims control over Kyiv region, April 3, 2022 (credit: Reuters)

Human Rights Watch cited a witness saying that Russian troops rounded up five men and shot each of them in the back of the head.

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Photos released of the incident show that Russian forces organized the killing of civilians in Bucha by a gunshot with their hands tied behind their backs, according to a report by Kyiv Independent. They were also murdering people in the city of Irpin, the report added.

Ukraine regains control over Irpin after Russia's retreat, April 3, 2022 (credit: EFE via Reuters)

Ukrainian prosecutors found 410 bodies altogether in towns near Kyiv and 140 of them had been examined, Prosecutor General Iryna Venedyktova said on television on Sunday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of carrying out a genocide in his country, in an interview on Sunday with CBS's "Face the Nation" news program.

"Indeed, this is genocide. The elimination of the whole nation and the people," Zelensky said, speaking through a translator.

"We are the citizens of Ukraine and we don't want to be subdued to the policy of Russian Federation. This is the reason we are being destroyed and exterminated."

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted that the "Bucha massacre was deliberate. Russians aim to eliminate as many Ukrainians as they can. We must stop them and kick them out. I demand new devastating G7 sanctions NOW."

"We are still gathering and looking for bodies, but the number has already gone into the hundreds," Kuleba said, according to his ministry.

"Dead bodies lie on the streets. They killed civilians while staying there and when they were leaving these villages and towns," Kuleba said.

Kuleba called on the International Criminal Court to visit Bucha and other towns around Kyiv as soon as possible to gather evidence.

"I urge the International Criminal Court and international organizations to send their missions to Bucha and other liberated towns and villages of the Kyiv region, in cooperation with Ukrainian law enforcement agencies, to thoroughly collect all evidence of Russian war crimes," the ministry quoted him as saying.

"If I used to say that I will make every effort to bring the perpetrators to justice, now I am convinced that this is a matter of my life, which I will do until my last breath, until they are all held accountable," he said.

Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky tweeted in response that the incident "is a war crime and cannot be justified."

Later on Sunday, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid strongly condemned the scenes in Bucha, which he referred to as war crimes. 

"It is impossible to remain indifferent in the face of the horrific images from the city of Bucha," Lapid wrote on Twitter. "Intentionally harming a civilian population is a war crime and I strongly condemn it."

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said she was appalled by atrocities in Bucha and voiced support for the International Criminal Court's inquiry into potential war crimes. A number of international human rights groups have been trying to find evidence of human rights abuses and war crimes committed by Russian troops for weeks now. 

French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Sunday that he firmly condemned what he called the "massive abuses" committed by Russian forces" in Ukraine in recent weeks.

Le Drian added in the same statement that such abuses would constitute war crimes and that France will work with Ukrainian authorities and the International Criminal Court (ICC) to put on trial those responsible for these abuses.

Mykhailo Podoliak, an advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, tweeted: "These people were not in the military. They had no weapons. They posed no threat. How many more such cases are happening right now in the occupied territories? We ask only one thing: Give us weapons so that we can protect civilians. Everything else we will do ourselves."

Podoliak continued by saying that "the worst crimes of Nazism have returned to Europe. This was purposely done by Russia. Impose an embargo on energy resources, close seaports. Stop the murders!"

Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau also called on the international community to investigate. "The liberation of the Kyiv region reveals barbaric atrocities committed by the Russian armed forces," Rau, who is also chairman-in-office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) for this year, wrote on Twitter.

"I urge @OSCE participating states and the international community to assist Ukraine in ensuring that these crimes are properly investigated."

European Council President Charles Michel tweeted that he is "shocked by haunting images of atrocities committed by the Russian army in Kyiv liberated region," saying that the EU will help Ukraine prosecute Russia for the incident in Bucha.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called the killings a "brutality" unseen in Europe for decades, and said their deaths reinforced the need for Russian President Vladimir Putin to halt the war.

"It's horrific and it's absolutely unacceptable that civilians are targeted and killed. And it underlines the importance ... that this war must end," he told CNN in an interview a day after Ukrainian forces moved into the town near Kyiv and found what officials and witnesses said were the bodies of nearly 300 civilians killed by Russian troops. Read full story

"That is President Putin's responsibility, to stop the war," Stoltenberg continued, adding that it was "extremely important" that the International Criminal Court pursue an investigation into "potential war crimes in Ukraine and that all facts are brought on the table."

The Russian Defense Ministry denied the claims of mass murder in Bucha and called the footage published from the area "provocations" and a "staged performance".

The refugee crisis continues

Over 67,000 people and 16,000 vehicles crossed the western borders of Ukraine into Moldova and other EU territories. Almost 23,000 of them crossed the border into Poland. 

Ukraine is scheduled to evacuate people on Sunday from areas affected by the Russian invasion, said Deputy Prime Minister Vereshchuk. Cities include Luhansk and Zaporizhia, as well as Donetsk regions. She also stated that work is underway to bring people from Mariupol to Zaporizhia.

Lithuanian film director killed in Mariupol

Lithuanian film director Mantas Kvedaravicius was killed on Saturday in Mariupol, the Ukrainian city whose fate he had documented for many years, according to the Ukrainian Defence Ministry and a colleague.

"While (he was) trying to leave Mariupol, Russian occupiers killed Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravicius," the ministry's information agency tweeted on Sunday.

Reuters could not immediately verify the report.

"We lost a creator well known in Lithuania and in the whole world who, until the very last moment, in spite of danger, worked in Russia-occupied Ukraine," Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said.

Kvedaravicius, 45, was best known for his conflict-zone documentary "Mariupolis", which premiered at the 2016 Berlin International Film Festival.

The film paints a portrait of Mariupol, a strategic port in a largely Russian-speaking part of eastern Ukraine where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014.

The city was a main target of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. Now bombed into ruins, it has been besieged for weeks, with tens of thousands trapped with little access to food and water.

"Mantas Kvedaravicius, was murdered today in Mariupol, with a camera in his hands, in this shitty war of evil, against the whole world," Russian film director Vitaly Mansky, founder of the Artdocfest arts festival in which Kvedaravicius was a participant, said on Facebook.

Amnesty International had awarded Kvedaravicius's 2011 film "Barzakh", shot in the Russian region of Chechnya, where Russian forces fought two wars to put down rebellions between 1994 and 2009, a prize at the Berlin International Film Festival.

"The audience was taken into the villages, into the lives and souls of the people," said Julia Duchrow, deputy secretary-general of Amnesty International in Germany.

"Mantas Kvedaravicius has shown great courage for this: The film was shot without permission and at great personal risk.

"This courage, this unconditional will to show human rights violations and make them accessible to the public, distinguished Mantas Kvedaravicius."