BUCHA, Ukraine — Bodies with bound hands, point-blank gunshot wounds and signs of torture lay strewn across a town on the outskirts of kyiv after Russian troops withdrew from the area. Ukrainian authorities accused the departing forces on Sunday of committing war crimes and leaving behind a “scene from a horror movie.”
As images of the bodies – of people who locals say had been killed indiscriminately – began to emerge from Bucha, a host of European leaders condemned the atrocities and called for tougher sanctions on Moscow. In a sign of how the horrific reports shook many leaders, Germany’s defense minister even suggested the European Union consider banning imports of Russian gas.
So far, the bodies of 410 civilians have been found in towns in the Kyiv region that were recently recaptured from Russian forces, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said.
Associated Press reporters saw the bodies of at least 21 people at various locations around Bucha, northwest of the capital. A group of nine people, all in civilian clothes, were scattered around a site that locals said Russian troops were using as a base. They appeared to have been shot at close range. At least two of them had their hands tied behind their backs, one was shot in the head and another had his legs tied.
Ukrainian officials have blamed the killings in Bucha and other Kyiv suburbs on the feet of Russian troops, with the president calling them evidence of genocide. But the Russian Defense Ministry dismissed the charges because “provocation.”
The findings followed the Russian withdrawal from the area around the capital, territory which has seen heavy fighting since troops invaded Ukraine from three directions on February 24. The troops that swept north through Belarus spent weeks trying to force their way into kyiv, but their advance stalled in the face of resolute defense by Ukrainian forces.
Moscow now says it is focusing its offensive on the east of the country, but it has also besieged a northern city and continued to batter towns elsewhere in a war that has claimed thousands of lives and forced more than 4 million Ukrainians to flee their country. .
Russian troops arrived in Bucha in the early days of the invasion and remained until March 30. After those forces left, residents gave heartbreaking accounts on Sunday, saying soldiers shot and killed civilians for no apparent reason.
A resident, who declined to be named out of fear for his safety, said Russian troops were going from building to building and pulling people out of the basements where they were hiding, checking their phones for any evidence of anti-terrorism activity. -Russian and taking them away or shooting them.
Another resident, Hanna Herega, said Russian troops started shooting at a neighbor who had gone out to get wood for heating.
“They hit him a little above the heel, crushing the bone, and he fell,” said Herega. “Then they completely shot his left leg, with the boot. Then they shot him all over.
The AP also saw two bodies, that of a man and a woman, wrapped in plastic which locals said they covered and placed in a well until a proper funeral could be arranged.
“He raised his hands and they shot him” said the resident who declined to be identified.
Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, described bodies lying in the streets of Irpin and Hostomel suburbs as well as Bucha as a “scene from a horror movie.” He alleged that some of the women found dead were raped before they were killed and that the Russians then burned the bodies.
“It’s a genocide” Zelenskyy told CBS “Facing the Nation” on Sunday.
But the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that photos and videos of dead bodies “were staged by the kyiv regime for Western media.” He noted that the mayor of Bucha had not mentioned any abuses a day after the departure of Russian troops.
The ministry said “Not a single civilian has faced violent action from the Russian military” in Bucha.
Russia also called for a meeting of the UN Security Council on Monday to discuss the events in the city, which it blamed on “Ukrainian Provocateurs and Their Western Patrons.” The United States and Britain recently accused Russia of using Security Council meetings to spread disinformation.
In Motyzhyn, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of kyiv, residents told the AP on Sunday that Russian troops killed the town’s mayor, her husband and son and dumped their bodies in a pit in a pine forest behind houses where the Russian forces had slept. . Inside the pit, AP reporters saw four bodies of people who appeared to have been shot at close range. The mayor’s husband had his hands behind his back, with a piece of rope nearby and a piece of plastic wrapped around his eyes like a blindfold.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk has confirmed that the mayor was killed while in the custody of Russian forces.