Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday flatly said, “This is genocide,” after officials from his government presented evidence of civilian executions and other atrocities allegedly being committed by the invading Russian forces.
“We are the citizens of Ukraine and we don’t want to be subdued to the policy of [the] Russian Federation. This is the reason we are being destroyed and exterminated. And this is happening in the Europe of the 21st century,” Zelensky said during an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Earlier that day, the mayor of Bucha, Ukraine, showed a team of Reuters journalists the dead bodies littering the streets in his city, on the northwestern outskirts of Kyiv, the capital. The Russian military recently withdrew from the Kyiv region to focus its attacks on Ukraine’s east.
“One corpse appeared to have his hands bound by the white cloth, and to have been shot in the mouth,” Reuters reported.
Agence France-Press reporters similarly saw “at least 20 bodies on a single street in the town of Bucha near Kyiv, including one with his hands tied, and the body of a missing photographer was discovered in a nearby village,” the news outlet reported.
And Associated Press journalists saw the “bodies of at least nine people in civilian clothes who appeared to have been killed at close range,” as well as “two bodies wrapped in plastic, bound with tape and thrown into a ditch.”
“Bucha massacre proves that Russian hatred towards Ukrainians is beyond anything Europe has seen since WWII,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote Sunay on Twitter, calling for “new devastating G7 sanctions NOW.”
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said Sunday that the images from Bucha and other towns in the Kyiv region presented “a picture from horror movies, a post-apocalyptic picture,” CNN reported.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense compared the scene in Bucha to the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, where 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were executed as part of a genocide. The ministry shared a video (Warning: graphic content) featuring numerous bodies in Ukrainian streets. “The Ukrainian city of Bucha was in the hands of 🇷🇺 animals for several weeks,” the Ukrainian government department wrote, using a Russian flag emoji.
The Russian Ministry of Defense denied the allegations and reports, calling them “fake.” The Russian government suggested that the Ukrainian video was staged, with people pretending to be dead. It further argued that Ukrainian shelling was responsible for civilian casualties in the area; it provided no evidence for this claim.
Ukrainian officials previously accused Russia of genocide in the International Court of Justice, though experts debated whether or not Russia’s killing of civilians met the definition of that term.
Last month, the U.S. also formally accused the Kremlin of committing war crimes, or as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken framed it: “indiscriminate attacks and attacks deliberately targeting civilians, as well as other atrocities.” Hundreds of civilian deaths have been confirmed since Russia began its bombardment of Ukrainian cities in February, and more than 4 million refugees have fled Ukraine to seek safety.
“We can’t become numb to this. We can’t normalize this,” Blinken said Sunday, calling the scenes from Bucha “a punch in the gut.”
Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, called for an urgent investigation of the latest alleged atrocities.
“Appalled by reports of unspeakable horrors in areas from which Russia is withdrawing,” she tweeted. “Perpetrators of war crimes will be held accountable.”