Russia denies massacring civilians in town near Ukrainian capital

Dnipro, Ukraine — Russian forces withdrew about Ukrainethe capital of kyiv, but there was no celebration in the country. What they left behind is hard to understand, and even harder to see. CBS News warns our readers that the video report above and the article below contain disturbing material.

Freelance journalists who traveled to the town of Bucha, just northwest of the capital, over the weekend found the streets littered with bodies. The dead wore civilian clothes and some had their hands tied behind their backs, apparently executed.

Others were buried in a mass grave. More than 300 residents were killed, according to the town’s mayor.

A man gestures towards a mass grave in the town of Bucha, northwest of the Ukrainian capital kyiv, on April 3, 2022. / Credit: SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty

In the central Ukrainian village of Kalynivka, closer to southern and eastern Ukrainian towns, Russia hammered with artillery and airstrikes for weeks, Irina Kostenko says the Russians killed her only son , Oleksei.

She said she took her son’s body home in a wheelbarrow and then buried him in the garden by herself, wrapped in a rug, in a shallow grave. He was killed at 27, but Kostenko clung to a photo of him as a child as she stood by his grave.

“It’s my love, darling,” she said. CBS News Senior Foreign Correspondent Holly Williams reports that Ukrainian officials have shared photos taken on a highway outside the capital over the weekend showing the naked bodies of at least four women. Officials said Russian troops attempted to burn the women’s bodies.

Human Rights Watch and other groups have documented cases of alleged rape by Russian troops during Vladimir Putin’s February 24 invasion. Ukrainian officials are investigating.

Speaking Sunday on CBS’ “Confront the NationUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of committing genocide in his country.

“We are being destroyed and exterminated,” he said, “and this is happening in 21st century Europe.” The southeast port city of Mariupol has been besieged and bombarded by the Russians for nearly 40 days since the start of the war. Thousands of people may have been killed there, according to the United Nations, but it’s impossible to get an accurate picture because Mariupol was cut off from the outside world. Ilona, ​​17, and her brother Milan, 10, went out of town on Friday with their parents. CBS News found them sitting silently in an evacuation center, apparently in shock. “There was constant shelling, constant explosions,” Ilona told Williams. There were times when they thought they were going to die in their town, but she said they tried throughout the ordeal to “hold together – we tried not to panic”.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said nearly two weeks ago that the United States had determined that Russian forces had committed “war crimes” in Ukraine, accusing them of “indiscriminate attacks and attacks deliberately targeting civilians”.

On Sunday, he told CNN the footage of Bucha was “a punch in the gut,” and he said the United States was “working to document” and provide its own information “to relevant institutions and organizations that will put it all together.” to ensure that all forces guilty of war crimes would be held accountable.

“We can’t normalize this,” he said. “This is the reality of what is happening every day, as Russia’s brutality against Ukraine continues. That’s why we have to end it. »

We strongly condemn the apparent atrocities committed by Kremlin forces in Bucha and throughout Ukraine. We seek accountability by using all available tools, documenting and sharing information to hold those responsible accountable.

— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) April 4, 2022

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On Monday, Russian officials denied killing civilians in Bucha. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed the gruesome scenes at Bucha were faked by Ukrainian forces as a “provocation”. It has become a common refrain in Moscow, uttered after previous alleged atrocities were exposed in this war, and during Russia’s long involvement in Syria’s brutal civil war.

As Williams reported, Russian soldiers accused of massacring unarmed civilians in Bucha and elsewhere in Ukraine will likely never be brought to justice.

The body of a man with his hands tied behind his back, who locals say was shot dead by Russian soldiers, lies on the street amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Bucha, Ukraine, April 3, 2022 / Credit: ZOHRA BENSEMRA/REUTERS

But despite the gruesome images and thousands of his own soldiers killed on the battlefield, a new poll in Russia has found Putin’s approval rating has risen to 83% since the invasion began.

While thousands have been arrested for protesting against the war against Ukraine in Russian cities over the past month, many Russians have relied entirely on the country’s state-run news agencies for news. These outlets present only the Kremlin version of what Putin calls “the special military operation”, and no Russian media is free to report the truth about what is happening in Ukraine.

Global outrage over alleged Russian atrocities in Ukraine: CBS News Flash April 4, 2022

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