Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday visited the city of Bucha and others in the Kyiv region where Russian forces are accused of committing war crimes.
“We want you to show the world what happened here. What the Russian military did. What the Russian Federation did in peaceful Ukraine,” he told reporters. “It was important for you to see that these were civilians.”
In social media posts, Zelensky told of what he witnessed in the cities.
“With my own eyes I saw Bucha, Irpin, Stoyanka after the occupation,” he said. “We will do our best to bring them back to life as soon as possible.”
He later added, “The pain of looking at what the occupiers did to our people is excruciating. They will have to bear responsibility for every war crime and for all the suffering they have brought to our land.”
Ukraine’s foreign ministry posted graphic photos of charred, bloodied bodies of men, women and children in Bucha, including one of a person apparently shot while riding a bicycle whose dog was still guarding the body of its slain master.
The ministry also posted a group of graphic photos of bodies found in a children’s camp in Bucha.
“All bodies are with their hands tied. All were tortured, some had their legs shot, some had 5 bullets in the heart, some got shot in the head,” Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzheppar wrote on Twitter. “The Russians lived there for a month.”
Zelensky later said during an address to the Romanian Parliament that “the name of our city Bucha is now forever in world history — in the history of war crimes, in the history of extermination of people.”
More than 300 of the city’s residents were tortured, shot or otherwise killed, he said, adding that residents “were handcuffed behind their backs, shot in the back of the head or in the eye,” while civilian vehicles with occupants still inside were crushed by military equipment.
“Women and girls were raped,” he added.
Ukrainian officials said hundreds of bodies of civilians have been found in liberated cities near the capital Kyiv as international anger mounts against Russia over its alleged war crimes with some world leaders saying they amount to genocide.
Iryna Venediktova, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, said Sunday on Facebook that 410 bodies of Ukrainian civilians have been removed from the Kyiv region since Friday.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelensky, called the Kyiv region a “21st century hell.”
“This is a planned genocide,” he said in a tweet.
“Bodies of men and women, who were killed with hands tied. The worst crimes of Nazism have returned to [Europe],” he said in another, calling on world leaders to impose an energy resource embargo on Russia. “Stop the murders!”
Russia has rebuked the accusations by Podolyak as “fake,” with its ministry of defense posting a statement to Telegram accusing Ukraine of being responsible for the mass grave and for having “deliberately laid out” bodies in the street “to create a more dramatic picture.”
World leaders have vowed to aid Ukraine in its push to prosecute and punish Russia and its leadership for war crimes.
“The Russian authorities are responsible for these atrocities, committed while they had effective control of the area,” the EU Council said in a statement Monday. “They are subject to the international law of occupation.”
“The perpetrators of war crimes and other serious violations, as well as the responsible government officials and military leaders will be held accountable. The European Union supports all measures to ensure accountability for human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law in Ukraine by Russian armed forces.”
The International Criminal Court has opened an investigation into possible Russian war crimes committed in Ukraine going back to 2013, and the EU said Monday it is in full support and was assisting Venediktova with the collection and preservation of evidence.
Since Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24, democratic nations have hit Moscow with steep sanctions that have taken a bite out of its economy.
With the new revelations of potential war crimes, the EU said it will advance further punitive measures against Russia “as a matter of urgency.”
Mateusz Morawiecki, the prime minister of Poland, said Monday the “genocide” committed by Russia in Bucha “changes everything in the perception of this war,” while calling for even stiffer sanctions to be imposed against Russia.
“The time for calculations is over, the brutality of the totalitarian-fascist regime from Russia touches a growing group of Ukrainian citizens,” he said on Facebook. “Instead of discussing human rights in warm conference rooms, start defending them finally!”