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Russian troops accused of blocking rescue of Ukrainian civilians trapped beneath rubble in Borodyanka

Hundreds of residents in the heavily shelled town near Kyiv remain beneath the wreckage, authorities fear

Rory Sullivan
Wednesday 06 April 2022 15:04 BST
Zelensky calls for Nuremberg-style trials after Russian ‘war crimes’ in Ukraine

Russian troops prevented Ukrainian civilians from rescuing people trapped beneath rubble in a heavily shelled town near Kyiv, residents have claimed.

Several witnesses in the recently recaptured town of Borodyanka, north-west of the capital, said occupying Russian soldiers had stopped them from digging out the injured and the dead.

Local police said hundreds of people, who had huddled in basements to protect themselves against Russian strikes, are most likely still buried beneath the wreckage.

“We knew people were under there from the very first day after the strike,” one resident named Maria told the BBC.

“But they wouldn’t let us dig them out. My soul hurts - I knew them all,” she added.

Since the retreat of Russian soldiers from Borodyanka, Ukrainian authorities have suggested the scale of destruction there is worse than nearby Bucha, where a mass grave was discovered last week.

Iryna Venediktova, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, said recently that the civilian death toll in Borodyanka was likely higher than that of Bucha, a suburb where more than 300 people are believed to have been killed.

Some of the victims in Bucha were found with gunshot wounds and their hands tied behind their backs, prompting outrage from the international community and calls for wider sanctions against Russia.

Cyclists pass scenes of destruction in Borodyanka, Ukraine, on 5 April 2022 (AP)

“I’ll never forget the horrifying images of civilians killed in Bucha,” UN secretary general Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday.

In an address to the UN Security Council via video-link on Tuesday, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia had committed the “most terrible war crimes” since the Second World War. Citing the atrocities perpetrated in Bucha, he spoke of the slaughter of civilians and of the rape of women.

“The world can see what the Russian military did in Bucha … But the world has yet to see what they have done in other occupied cities and regions of our country,” he said.

This sentiment echoed the words of Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, who said on Monday that “the horrors we’ve seen in Bucha are just the tip of the iceberg” of Russian crimes.

Kyiv has indicated that around 5,000 Russian war crimes are currently being investigated.

The Kremlin said on Tuesday that western allegations of war crimes committed in Bucha were a “monstrous forgery” aimed at discrediting the Russian army. Moscow, which refers to the conflict as a “special military operation” designed to demilitarise Ukraine, has repeatedly denied deliberately targeting civilians.

World leaders have offered Ukraine support in the task of amassing “evidence” of Russian war crimes.

A resident stands in front of a destroyed apartment block in Borodyanka, a town near Kyiv (REUTERS)

“What we’ve seen in Bucha is not the random act of a rogue unit. It’s a deliberate campaign to kill, to torture, to rape, to commit atrocities,” US secretary of state Antony Blinken said.

“The reports are more than credible. The evidence is there for the world to see,” he added.

Elsewhere, British prime minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday the actions of the Kremlin’s troops in Bucha “doesn’t look far short of genocide”.

This comes the day after Mr Johnson appealed to the Russian people to reject Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, saying the stain on their country’s reputation “will only grow larger and more indelible”.

In response to horrors discovered in Bucha, the EU, the UK and the US are introducing new sanctions intended to make Moscow pay financially for its aggression.

This map shows the extent of the Russian invasion of Ukraine (Press Association Images)

The sanctions will target officials and their families - with reports suggesting Vladimir Putin’s daughters Maria Vorontsova, 36, and Katerina Tikhonova, 35, will be hit by American and EU measures - as well as Russian banks and state-owned enterprises,

Meanwhile, Mr Zelensky told the Irish parliament that Russia was using hunger as a “weapon” of war, referring to the targeting of food storage facilities and the mining of fields.

“Why are they doing this? For them, hunger is also a weapon, a weapon against us ordinary people, an instrument of domination,” he said.

He added: “The country which is doing this is not doesn’t deserve to be in the circle of the civil countries. It should be held responsible for everything they have done on Ukrainian soil.”

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