Russia faced a fresh wave of condemnation on Monday after evidence showed what appeared to be deliberate killings of civilians in Ukraine. Some Western leaders called for further sanctions in response to the alleged atrocities, even as Moscow continued to press its offensive in the country’s east.
Germany’s defense minister advised the European Union discuss a ban on Russian gas imports, but more senior officials indicated an immediate boycott was not possible — a sign that leaders could struggle in the short-term to ramp up already severe sanctions on Russia.
Ukrainian officials said bodies of 410 civilians were found in towns around the capital, Kyiv, that were recaptured from Russian forces recently. In Bucha, northwest of the capital, foreign media journalists witnessed 21 dead bodies. One group of nine, all in civilian clothes, were scattered around a site that residents said Russian troops used as a base. They appeared to have been shot at close range. At least two had their hands tied behind their backs.
The images of battered bodies lying in the streets or hastily dug graves unleashed a wave of outrage that could signal a turning point in the nearly 6-week-long war. But sanctions have thus far failed to halt the offensive, and rising energy prices along with the tight controls on Russian currency market have blunted their impact, with the ruble rebounding strongly after initially crashing.
Western and Ukrainian leaders have accused Russia of war crimes before, and the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor has opened a probe to investigate the conflict. But the latest reports ratcheted up the condemnation even further, with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and some Western leaders going so far as to accuse Russia of genocide.
Russia’s Defense Ministry rejected the accusations. It said photos and videos of dead bodies “have been stage managed by the Kyiv regime for the Western media.” The ministry said “not a single civilian” in Bucha faced any violent military action.