krainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russian forces of genocide, calling its war the “elimination of the whole nation and the people”.
It comes as Ukrainian authorities investigate possible war crimes by Russia after finding hundreds of bodies, some bound and shot at close range, strewn around towns near Kyiv after Kremlin forces withdrew to refocus their attacks in other parts of the country.
In the town of Bucha, 23 miles northwest of Kyiv’s city centre, the deputy mayor, Taras Shapravskyi, said 50 of some 300 bodies, found after Russian forces withdrew from the city late last week, were the victims of extra-judicial killings carried out by Russian troops.
The Standard has not been able to independently verify those figures or who was responsible for the killings.
Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement issued on Sunday that all photographs and videos published by the Ukrainian authorities alleging “crimes” by Russian troops in Bucha were a “provocation,” and no resident of Bucha suffered violence at the hands of Russian troops.
Mr Zelensky, speaking to CBS News through a translator on Sunday, said the people of Ukraine did not want to be subdued by Russia and were being destroyed and exterminated as a result.
Asked whether Russia’s actions constitute genocide, he said: “Indeed, this is genocide. The elimination of the whole nation and the people. We are the citizens of Ukraine. We have more than 100 nationalities.
“This is about the destruction and extermination of all these nationalities.”
Mr Zelensky also made a suprise guest appearance, via video link, at the Grammy Awards on Sunday night, appealing for musicians to “fill the silence with your music” and support Ukraine “in any way you can”.
‘Putin will feel the consequences’
Pictures of the destruction and apparent violence towards civilians sparked widespread condemnation of Russia and leader Vladimir Putin.
Prime minister Boris Johnson condemned the “despicable attacks against innocent civilians” in the town of Irpin and Bucha.
“No denial or disinformation from the Kremlin can hide what we all know to be the truth – Putin is desperate, his invasion is failing, and Ukraine’s resolve has never been stronger,” Mr Johnson said on Sunday.
“I will do everything in my power to starve Putin’s war machine. We are stepping up our sanctions and military support, as well as bolstering our humanitarian support package to help those in need on the ground.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the images as “a punch in the gut,” while United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an independent investigation.
“Putin and his supporters will feel the consequences,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, adding that Western allies would agree on further sanctions in the coming days.
Japan said it would consult with allies about additional sanctions.
“Japan takes deaths of innocent civilians in Ukraine extremely seriously. We are really shocked,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a regular news conference.
Germany’s Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said the European Union must discuss banning the import of Russian gas – a departure from Berlin’s prior resistance to the idea of an embargo on Russian energy imports.
Russia requested the UN Security Council convene on Monday to discuss what Moscow called a “provocation by Ukrainian radicals” in Bucha.
Russia has previously denied targeting civilians and has rejected allegations of war crimes in what it calls a “special military operation” aimed at demilitarising and “denazifying” Ukraine. Ukraine says it was invaded without provocation.
Human Rights Watch said it had documented “several cases of Russian military forces committing laws-of-war violations” in the Ukrainian regions of Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Kyiv.