He accused Russia of trying to cover up atrocities but warned that ‘we have much more tools than those who prosecuted the Nazis after World War II’
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy examines the site of a recent battle in Bucha, close to Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Apr. 4, 2022. Russia is facing a fresh wave of condemnation after evidence emerged of what appeared to be deliberate killings of civilians in Ukraine. ((AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky))
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed that Russian forces in Ukraine committed atrocities beyond even the Nazis in the 1940s.
He made the claim after Russian forces pulled out of many towns near the capital city of Kyiv, allegedly leaving bodies in mass graves. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Kyiv of setting up a “stage-managed anti-Russian provocation.”
“I’ve visited our cities in the Kyiv region, which we liberated from the occupiers: Stoyanka, Irpin, Bucha,” Zelenskyy said in his daily address shortly after midnight Tuesday. “Of course, now this area does not look like yesterday. The bodies of killed people, killed Ukrainians have already been taken from most streets. But in the yards, in the houses, the dead still remain.”
“We have just begun an investigation into all that the occupiers have done,” the president added. “At present, there is information about more than three hundred people killed and tortured in Bucha alone. It is likely that the list of victims will be much larger when the whole city is checked. And this is only one city. One of the many Ukrainian communities that the Russian military managed to seize.”
Zelenskyy said that early reports suggest that “the number of victims of the occupiers may be even higher in Borodyanka and some other liberated cities.”
“In many villages of the liberated districts of the Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy regions, the occupiers did things that the locals had not seen even during the Nazi occupation 80 years ago,” the president alleged. “The occupiers will definitely bear responsibility for this.”
The president said his government is “already doing everything possible to identify all the Russian military involved in these crimes as soon as possible.” He pledged that Kyiv will coordinate with the European Union and international institutions, in particular with the International Criminal Court.
Ukrainian parliament member Oleksiy Goncharenko said that Russian troops beheaded an elderly woman who was trying to flee the city of Bucha, where bodies have been found in mass graves, describing the graphic scene in the Kyiv region as a “scene from a horror movie.”
Ukrainian officials say the bodies of 410 civilians were found in Kyiv-area towns and cities – like Bucha – that were recently retaken from Russian forces.
Associated Press journalists saw the bodies of at least 21 people in various spots around Bucha, northwest of the capital. One group of nine, all in civilian clothes, were scattered around a site that residents said Russian troops used as a base. They appeared to have been killed at close range. At least two had their hands tied behind their backs, one was shot in the head, and another’s legs were bound.
Zelenskyy visited Bucha Monday. Shortly after the visit, U.S. President Biden called for a war crimes trial against Russia President Vladimir Putin and said he’d seek more sanctions after reported atrocities in Ukraine. But, speaking to reporters in Washington, D.C., he stopped short of categorizing the actions as genocide.
“You saw what happened in Bucha,” Biden said, describing Putin as both “brutal” and a “war criminal.” “What’s happening in Bucha is outrageous and everyone sees it.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, tweeted Monday that the European Union will send investigators to Ukraine to help the local prosecutor general “document war crimes.”
Zelenskyy said he had spoken with von der Leyen, with Austrian Chancellor Nehammer, and with Polish President Duda.
He dismissed Lavrov’s claim as a lie and a “conspiracy theory.”
“They are trying to distort the facts,” Zelenskyy said. “They will not be able to deceive the whole world.”
“It is now 2022. And we have much more tools than those who prosecuted the Nazis after World War II,” he warned. “We must also be aware that after the revealed mass killings of civilians in the Kyiv region, the occupiers may have a different attitude to their crimes in another part of our country where they came. They are already launching a false campaign to conceal their guilt in the mass killings of civilians in Mariupol. They will do dozens of stage interviews, re-edited recordings, and will kill people specifically to make it look like they were killed by someone else.”
He warned that the devastation near Kyiv “proves that sanctions imposed against Russia are not enough. There will be more.”