The world has reacted with horror after hundreds of people were found killed in cold blood in areas of Ukraine the Russian army has now retreated from.
The victims, some of whom died with their hands tied behind their backs, were found over the weekend in the town of Bucha, just outside the capital Kyiv. Satellite images appear to show a mass grave site in the middle of the town.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy labelled Russian troops “murderers, torturers and rapists” after the bodies of hundreds of civilians were discovered over the weekend, and referred to the killings as “genocide”. Russia has denied responsibility.
Soldiers who kill, torture or rape civilians are responsible for war crimes.
Fears are growing that similar scenes will be found in more Russian-occupied areas as Moscow moved troops to the east of Ukraine. And world leaders have joined Zelenskyy in condemning what appears to be the torture and execution of innocent people.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that the grim discoveries have provided “yet more evidence that Putin and his army are committing war crimes in Ukraine.”
“No denial or disinformation from the Kremlin can hide what we all know to be the truth – Putin is desperate, his invasion is failing, and Ukraine’s resolve has never been stronger,” he added.
Johnson went on to promise to do “everything in my power to starve Putin’s war machine” by “stepping up our sanctions and military support, as well as bolstering our humanitarian support package to help those in need on the ground.”
He has told ministers he wants to arm Ukraine with anti-ship missiles to help repel a Russian invasion by sea at the port city Odesa.
On Sunday, US secretary of state Antony Blinken described the horrific images “as a punch to the gut.”
“We can’t become numb to this. We can’t normalise this. This is the reality of what’s going on every single day as long as Russia’s brutality against Ukraine continues.”
“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 organisations that will put all of this together. And there needs to be accountability for it.”
In a tweet, UN secretary-general António Guterres called for an “independent investigation” to ensure “effective accountability.”
Polish President Andrzej Duda has called for Ukraine to be provided with “weapons, weapons and more weapons.”
“Criminals must be called criminals, brought to justice and sentenced,” he added.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned “the murder of civilians in Ukraine,” and said that Canada remained “committed to holding the Russian regime accountable, and will continue to do everything we can to support the people of Ukraine.”
He said, “Those responsible for these egregious and appalling attacks will be brought to justice.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has promised to implement further sanctions that will ensure “Putin and his supporters will feel the consequences” of the “atrocities.”
“I demand that international organisations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross be given access to these areas in order to independently document the atrocities.”
In a tweet, President Emmanuel Macron called the images from Bucha “unbearable” and described the Russian army as “cowardly”.
“My compassion for the victims, my solidarity with the Ukrainians,” he added. “The Russian authorities will have to answer for these crimes.”