Russia guilty of worst war crimes since World War II, Zelensky tells UN

UN must urgently be reformed to protect global security, Ukrainian president says

Rory Sullivan
Tuesday 05 April 2022 20:05 BST
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Wladimir Klitschko calls Bucha killings 'genocide of Ukrainian population'

Russian troops in Ukraine have committed the “most terrible war crimes” since the Second World War, Volodymyr Zelensky told the UN Security Council on Tuesday, as foreign secretary Liz Truss vowed to push Russia’s economy “back into the Soviet era” with fresh sanctions.

The Ukrainian leader said in a video address that civilians have been shot in cold blood in their homes or on the street and crushed in their cars by tanks, and that many women have been raped.

Likening the invading troops to terrorists such as Isis, the president urged the world to punish Moscow for its crimes, saying it would send a strong signal to other “potential war criminals”. He said Russia must be thrown off the council as part of urgently needed reforms to global security.

Mr Zelensky drew attention in particular to what had happened in Bucha, a Kyiv suburb where a mass grave was discovered last week. Victims’ bodies were discovered in the town with hands tied behind their backs. At least 300 civilians were killed there, according to Ukrainian authorities.

“But the world has yet to see what they [the Russians] have done in other occupied cities and regions of our country,” Mr Zelensky said.

He accused Russia of “wanting to turn Ukraine into silent slaves” and its military of “wide-scale looting”, stealing everything from food to bloodied jewellery.

“The Russian military and those who gave them orders must be brought to justice immediately for war crimes in Ukraine,” he said. “Anyone who has given criminal orders and carried out them by killing our people will be brought before the tribunal, which should be similar to the Nuremberg tribunals.”

The Ukrainian president also warned that similar atrocities, denied as “fake news” by the Kremlin, had been committed elsewhere in the country.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky speaks in Bucha, where over 300 Ukrainian citizens were killed by Russian soldiers

“In many villages of the liberated districts of the Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy regions, the occupiers did things that the locals had not seen even during the Nazi occupation 80 years ago. The occupiers will definitely bear responsibility for this,” Mr Zelensky said.

Mr Zelensky also told the Kremlin that its leaders would end their lives “behind bars”, saying the crimes committed by Russia were being closely documented.

Sergey Nikiforov, the president’s spokesperson, condemned the “pure brutality” of the Russians. “We found people with their hands and with their legs tied up and with bullet holes at the back of their heads,” he said. “They were civilians and they were executed.”

Ukraine’s prosecutor general suggested a “torture chamber” was uncovered in a children’s sanatorium in Bucha, where five men are alleged to have been killed.

Meanwhile, Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, accused Russia of committing “genocide” after he visited some of the capital’s liberated satellite towns, including Bucha.

The former professional boxer urged the EU to cut all commercial ties with Russia, saying its oil payments to the Kremlin constituted “blood money”.

A woman mourns the death of her husband, killed in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine

Russia continues to deny that its troops were involved in the murder of civilians in places such as Bucha. Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, who is a close ally of Mr Putin, claimed the accusations from Ukraine and the west were groundless.

“These are fakes that matured in the cynical imagination of Ukrainian propaganda,” he said.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov doubled down on Russia’s official position, calling the allegations a “monstrous forgery”.

Russia claims its troops had left Bucha long before the discovery of the bodies. The defence ministry said the bodies were placed on the streets after “all Russian units withdrew completely from Bucha”, which Moscow claims was around 30 March. However, satellite images taken by the US company Maxar Technologies undercut the Kremlin’s narrative by showing bodies on one of the town’s roads on 18 and 19 March.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, a Red Cross team has been released after being detained on their way to Mariupol, where tens of thousands of civilians remain trapped without adequate water and food.

“After negotiations, they were released during the night and sent to Zaporizhzhia,” Ukrainian deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

Meanwhile, a woman was “raped and killed” by Russian forces before they allegedly burned a swastika onto her dead body, a Ukrainian MP has claimed.

Lesia Vasylenko, a politician for the Holos party, shared a graphic image on Twitter of what she claimed was the “tortured body of a raped and killed woman”. The photo appeared to show a woman’s torso with a swastika burned and scratched onto it.

Ms Vasylenko wrote: “I’m speechless. My mind is paralysed with anger and fear and hatred.”

Russia’s stretched military is reportedly sending soldiers to fight in Ukraine with weapons developed in the late 19th century, Reuters reported.

Conscripts in the Russian-backed Donbas region are said to have been dispatched into frontline fighting with a rifle called a Mosin, with the Kremlin relying on weapons stocks dating to the Second World War.

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.

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