Zelensky at the UN accuses the Russian army of war crimes
BUCHA, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy blamed the Russians for horrific atrocities in Ukraine and told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that those responsible should be immediately brought to justice for war crimes in court like the one established in Nuremberg after the Second World War.
Over the past few days, gruesome images of what appeared to be intentional killings of civilians by Russian forces in Bucha and other towns before they withdrew from the outskirts of Kyiv have caused global outcry and led Western countries to expel dozens of diplomats from Moscow. and propose new sanctions, including a ban on coal imports from Russia.
Zelenskyy, speaking by video from Ukraine to UN diplomats, said civilians had been tortured, shot in the back of the neck, thrown into wells, blown up with grenades in their apartments and crushed to death by tanks while in cars.
“They cut off limbs, slit their throats. Women have been raped and killed in front of their children,” he said. He claimed people’s tongues were ripped out “only because their attacker didn’t hear what they wanted to hear from them”.
Zelenskyy said those who carried out the killings and those who gave the orders “must be brought to justice immediately for war crimes” in a court similar to that used in post-war Germany.
Moscow’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, said that while Bucha was under Russian control, “not a single local person suffered from violent action”. Reiterating what the Kremlin has maintained for days, he said video footage of bodies on the streets was “a gross fake” staged by Ukrainians.
“You only saw what they showed you,” he said. “The only ones who would fall into the trap are Western dilettantes.”
As Zelenskyy addressed diplomats, survivors of the month-long Russian occupation took investigators to the body after townspeople were allegedly shot dead by troops. Others simply watched the destruction.
In Borodyanka, northwest of Kyiv, 25-year-old Dmitriy Yevtushkov searched the rubble of apartment buildings and discovered that only a photo album of his family’s house remained. In the beleaguered southern city of Mykolaiv, a passer-by paused briefly to gaze at the brilliant blooms of a broken flowerbed lying among bloodstains, the legacy of a Russian shell that killed nine people. The spectator sketched the sign of the cross in the air and continued.
Associated Press reporters in Bucha counted dozens of plainclothes bodies and interviewed Ukrainians who said they had witnessed atrocities. Additionally, high-resolution satellite images from Maxar Technologies showed that many bodies had lain out in the open for weeks while Russian forces were in the city.
The dead at Bucha included a pile of six charred bodies, as reported by AP reporters. It is not known who they were or under what circumstances they died. One body was likely that of a child, said Andrii Nebytov, chief of police for the Kyiv region. A bullet wound to the head was visible on one of them.
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague opened a month ago an investigation into possible war crimes in Ukraine.
Zelenskyy pointed out that Bucha was just one place and there were others with similar horrors – a warning echoed by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Stoltenberg, meanwhile, warned that in withdrawing from the capital, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s army is regrouping its forces in order to deploy them in eastern and southern Ukraine for a “crucial phase of the war”. Russia’s stated goal currently is control of Donbass, the largely Russian-speaking industrial region to the east that includes the shattered port city of Mariupol.
“Moscow is not giving up on its ambitions in Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.
As Ukrainian and Russian representatives sent optimistic signals following their latest round of talks a week ago, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would not agree to a Ukrainian demand that a possible peace deal would include an immediate troop withdrawal followed by a Ukrainian referendum on the deal.
In televised remarks on Tuesday, Lavrov said a new deal would have to be brokered if the vote failed, and “we don’t want to play cat and mouse.”
Ukrainian officials said the bodies of at least 410 civilians were found in towns around kyiv that were retaken from Russian forces and that a “torture chamber” was discovered in Bucha.
Zelenskyy told the Security Council that there was “not a single crime” that Russian troops did not commit in Bucha.
“The Russian army sought out and deliberately killed everyone who served our country. They shot and killed women outside their homes as they simply tried to call someone alive. They killed whole families, adults and children, and they tried to burn the bodies,” he said. They used tanks to run over civilians “just for fun”, he said.
On Tuesday, police and other investigators roamed the quiet streets of Bucha. Survivors who hid in their homes during the Russian occupation of the city, many of whom were past middle age, wandered past charred tanks and shredded windows with plastic bags containing food and other humanitarian aid. Red Cross workers checked the intact houses.
Many of the dead seen by AP reporters appeared to have been shot at close range, and some had their hands tied or their flesh burned.
The AP and the PBS series “Frontline” jointly verified at least 90 incidents during the war that appear to violate international law. The War Crimes Watch Ukraine project looks at apparently targeted attacks as well as indiscriminate attacks.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Bucha’s footage revealed “not the random act of a rogue unit” but “a deliberate campaign to kill, torture, rape, commit atrocities”. He said the reports of atrocities were “more than credible”.
“Only non-humans are capable of this,” said Angelica Chernomor, a refugee from Kyiv who traveled to Poland with her two children and saw Bucha’s photos. “Even if people live under a totalitarian regime, they have to maintain feelings, dignity, but they don’t.”
Chernomor is one of more than 4 million Ukrainians who fled the country following the February 24 invasion.
Russia has denied similar accusations atrocities in the past by accusing his enemies of falsifying photos and videos and using so-called crisis actors.
As Western leaders condemned the Bucha killings, Romania, Italy, Spain and Denmark expelled dozens of Russian diplomats Tuesday, following the movements of Germany and France. Hundreds of Russian diplomats have been sent home since the invasion began, many of whom are accused of being spies.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the expulsions a “short-sighted” measure that would complicate communication and warned they would face “reciprocal measures”.
The United States, in coordination with the European Union and Group of Seven countries, will roll out new sanctions against Russia on Wednesday, including a ban on all new investment in the country, a senior administration official said. , speaking on condition of discussing the upcoming announcement. .
In addition, the executive branch of the EU has proposed a ban on coal imports of Russia, in what would be the first time the 27-nation bloc has sanctioned the country’s lucrative energy industry during the war. Coal imports amount to about 4 billion euros (4.4 billion dollars) per year.
Just hours before the latest proposal was announced, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that to prevent ‘new Buchas’ the West must impose the ‘mother of all sanctions’ – on oil and Russian gas.
“A few months of belt-tightening is worth thousands of lives saved,” he said.
But Western nations are divided on how far to go. While some are calling for a boycott of Russian oil and gas, Germany and others fear such a move could plunge the continent into a serious economic crisis..
Lederer reported from the United Nations. Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Ukraine, and Associated Press reporters around the world contributed to this report.
Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine