US President Joe Biden called Monday for a “war crimes trial” over alleged atrocities in Bucha and vowed tougher sanctions against Moscow, as Ukraine‘s leader urged the world to acknowledge a “genocide” by Russian troops near Kyiv.
Western leaders have united in outrage after dozens of bodies were found on the streets and in mass graves when Russian troops retreated from the devastated town near the capital, laying bare the horrors of a 40-day war that has killed thousands.
Bombardments continued Monday including in southern Mykolaiv, where officials said Russian strikes killed 10 civilians and wounded 46, as Kyiv warned that Moscow was shifting its military focus and preparing a “full-scale” attack in the country’s east.
With momentum building for a stiffer European Union response beyond already unprecedented sanctions over Russia’s invasion, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc was ready to send investigators to gather evidence of possible war crimes in Bucha.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky blames Russian troops for the killings, but the Kremlin has denied responsibility.
“These are war crimes and it will be recognised by the world as genocide,” Zelensky said Monday as he visited the town, where the corpses, some with their hands bound behind their backs, were discovered over the weekend.
“We know that thousands of people have been killed and tortured with extremities cut off, women raped, children killed,” he told reporters, wearing a bulletproof vest for a rare trip outside Ukraine’s capital, and appearing visibly distressed.
While Moscow suggested images of the corpses in Bucha were “fakes,” newly released satellite photographs by Maxar Technologies appeared to rebut such claims, and showed that bodies had been on the streets since mid-March when Russian forces controlled the town.
A grisly new discovery, meanwhile, emerged in Bucha, as the bodies of five men were found in a children’s sanatorium basement — described by the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office as unarmed civilians, their hands tied, who were beaten and then killed by Russian soldiers.
Moscow has sought a UN Security Council meeting on what its deputy ambassador to the body called a “heinous provocation of Ukrainian radicals in Bucha.”
But Biden did not hesitate to call out Russian President Vladimir Putin over the killings.
“He is a war criminal,” Biden told reporters at the White House.
“What’s happening to Bucha is outrageous and everyone’s seen it,” he said, adding: “We have to gather all the details” in order to “have a war crimestrial.”
The killings are likely to receive more international attention on Tuesday, when Zelensky addresses the Security Council’s meeting on Ukraine, according to British diplomats.