Ukraine: Soldiers blow up Russian convoy as conflict continues
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“We know of thousands of people killed and tortured…with severed limbs, raped women and murdered children,” he said. “It’s very difficult to talk when you see what they’ve done here.” He was yesterday speaking at the site of genocide committed by Russian forces in Bucha, where hundreds are reported to have been murdered. But, preparing his war-torn country for worse outrages to come, Mr Zelensky warned that many more massacres, rapes and atrocities are being committed by Russian troops in cities and towns they occupy.
Appealing direct to the mothers of rank-and-file soldiers over the heads of their brutal commander-in-chief, he asked: “Even if you raised looters, how did they also become butchers?
“You couldn’t not have noticed they’re missing humanity. No soul. No heart. They killed deliberately, and with pleasure.”
Mr Zelensky said the Kremlin’s “murderers, torturers, rapists and looters” were butchering thousands of innocents. He condemned Russian troops for crushing people with tanks, raping and murdering women in front of their children – and tying up civilians before shooting them in the back of their head.
Calls grew around the world for Russia’s tyrant and his commanders to face war crime charges – Poland said dealing with Putin was like negotiating with Hitler.
On his heavily-guarded visit north-west of the capital Kyiv, Mr Zelensky said Moscow’s invaders were treating Ukrainians “worse than animals” in both Bucha and Irpin, which Ukraine has retaken.
But Dymytro Kuleba, his Foreign Minister, warned the carnage there was “just the tip of the iceberg”, fearing that casualties in the flattened southern port of Mariupol will be “much worse”.
Ukraine’s leaders say the brutality wreaked by Putin will make peace negotiations much harder – Russians abandoning blitzed towns are leaving mines in children’s playgrounds, boobytrapping doors and planting explosives in alleys.
Many bodies found by Ukrainian liberators were shot at close range, hands tied behind their backs.
In one incident, five tortured male corpses were found in the basement of a children’s holiday camp building in Bucha.
Russia claims that photos and footage of the many atrocities were faked by Ukrainian authoriites.
But Mr Zelensky hit back: “These are war crimes and will be recognised by the world as genocide. The longer the Russian Federation drags out the meeting process, the worse it is for them.”
Asked if the fledgling peace talks could continue, he replied: “Yes, because Ukraine must have peace. We are in Europe in the 21st century. We will continue efforts diplomatically and militarily.”
Mr Zelensky said traumatised Bucha residents were still feeding stray animals: “That’s a characteristic of our people…treat animals the way you would treat humans.
“You can see what was done to this modern town. That’s a characteristic of Russian soldiers – treat people worse than animals. When our army are moving into the previously occupied territory, you can see what’s happening. Day by day, they find bodies in cellars; people tortured, people killed.”
He vowed that every war criminal will be named in a Book of Torturers, found – and punished.
In a powerful address to the Ukrainian people, Mr Zelensky added: “On our land, there has been concentrated evil.
“Murderers. Torturers. Rapists. Looters. Those who call themselves an army. And who deserve only death for their actions.
“I want every mother of every Russian soldier to see the bodies of those who have been killed in Bucha, in Irpin, in Hostomel.
“What did they do? Why were they murdered? What did the man riding his bike on the road do?
“Why were ordinary citizens questioned and tortured to death in an ordinary peaceful city?
“Why were women strangled after their earrings were ripped out of their ears? How could women be raped and murdered in front of their children?
“Their bodies tortured even after their deaths? Why did tanks crush the corpses of people?”
US President Joe Biden yesterday labelled Putin a war criminal and demanded a trial after the atrocities that were unleashed in Bucha. Kyiv’s mayor Vitali Klitschko warned families who had fled the capital to wait for a few more days before returning, while searches are carried out for Russian booby traps.
He said: “Things we are seeing now in Irpin and Bucha – these are horror scenes. Civilians with hands tied behind their backs.
“The aggressor must pay for this – pay a heavy price for the life of thousands of Ukrainians. We will not forgive what has been done.”
Western officials fear Putin is preparing to send in extra troops, from Georgia, plus more than 130,000 fresh conscripts after he signed a spring draft decree.
One said: “It’s a very odd thing for the Russian military to do. We suspect it’s indicative of the problems they are having in Ukraine.”
Comment by Dr Precious Chatterje-Doody
There have been many reports of Russia targeting civilians in the war in Ukraine, but the pictures emerging from Bucha are shocking in their brutality.
Evidence is mounting that Russian forces deliberately murdered civilians in large numbers, and President Zelensky has said that this is not only war crimes, but genocide.
The charge of genocide can be difficult to evidence in legal terms, because you have to prove that the aim is to destroy a particular nation, ethnicity, racial or religious group – and that this strategy and intent was deliberate.
But in recent days, we have we not only seen a pattern of atrocities emerge, we have also seen a frightening escalation in the arguments Russia make to justify it. Putin’s only solution is for Ukraine to cease to exist.
This is just the kind of dehumanisation of Ukrainians that makes war crimes possible, and it’s precisely the kind of language we have seen used to justify genocide in past conflicts.
But Russia is dismissing the corpses as fakes or alleging that the massacre was a provocation plotted by the Ukrainians or the British to accuse Russia of genocide.
• Dr Precious is Lecturer in Politics & International Studies, Open University
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