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Russia faces growing outrage amid new evidence of atrocities

BUCHA, UKRAINE (AP) – Russia faced a fresh wave of condemnation yesterday after evidence emerged of what appeared to be deliberate killings of civilians in Ukraine.

Some Western leaders called for further sanctions in response to the alleged atrocities, even as Moscow continued to press its offensive in the country’s east.

Germany’s defence minister suggested the European Union (EU) discuss a ban on Russian gas imports, but more senior officials indicated an immediate boycott was not possible – a sign that leaders could struggle in the short-term to ramp up already severe sanctions on Russia.

Ukrainian officials said bodies of 410 civilians were found in towns around the capital, Kyiv, that were recaptured from Russian forces in recent days.

In Bucha, northwest of the capital, Associated Press journalists saw 21 bodies. 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 shot at close range. At least two had their hands tied behind their backs.

Soldiers walk amid destroyed Russian tanks in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine. PHOTO: AP

The images of battered bodies lying in the streets or hastily dug graves unleashed a wave of outrage that could signal a turning point in the nearly six-week-old war.

But sanctions have thus far failed to halt the offensive, and rising energy prices along with the tight controls on Russian currency market have blunted their impact, with the ruble rebounding strongly after initially crashing.

Western and Ukrainian leaders have accused Russia of war crimes before, and the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor has opened a probe to investigate the conflict.

But the latest reports ratcheted up the condemnation even further, with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and some Western leaders going so far as to accuse Russia
of genocide.

Russia’s Defence Ministry rejected the accusations. It said photos and videos of bodies “have been stage managed by the Kyiv regime for the Western media”.

The ministry said “not a single civilian” in Bucha faced any violent military action.

French President Emmanuel Macron said yesterday that there is “clear evidence of war crimes” in Bucha.

“What just happened in Bucha calls for a new round of sanctions and very clear measures,” he said on France-Inter radio. “I’m in favour of a new round of sanctions and in particular on coal and petrol. We need to act.”

European Council President Charles Michel earlier tweeted that the EU is assisting Ukrainians and rights groups in gathering evidence to be used in international courts, adding that “further EU sanctions and support are on their way”.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez also called for those responsible for the slayings in Bucha to be punished, saying they should “answer these alleged cases of crimes against humanity, war crimes and, why not say it, of genocide, too”.

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki described Russia as a “totalitarian-fascist state”, saying “the bloody massacres perpetrated by Russian soldiers deserve to be called by name: This is genocide”.