As Ukraine claimed its forces had retaken all areas around Kyiv, the Mayor of a liberated town said 300 residents had been killed during a month-long occupation by the Russian Army, and victims were seen in a mass grave and still lying on the streets.
Ukraine’s troops have retaken more than 30 towns and villages around Kyiv, Ukrainian officials said on Saturday, claiming complete control of the capital region for the first time since Russia launched its invasion.
At Bucha, a town neighbouring Irpen, just 37 km northwest of the capital, Reuters journalists saw bodies lying in the streets, and the hands and feet of multiple corpses poking out of a still open grave at a church ground.
After five weeks of fighting, Russia has pulled back forces that had threatened Kyiv from the north to regroup for battles in eastern Ukraine.
“The whole Kyiv region is liberated from the invader,” Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar said There was no Russian comment on the claim.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister called on the G7 on Sunday to impose “devastating” new sanctions on Moscow and accused Russia of carrying out a deliberate “massacre” in the town of Bucha outside Kyiv.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy warned in a video address: “They are mining all this territory. Houses are mined, equipment is mined, even the bodies of dead people.” He did not cite evidence.
Russia denies targeting civilians and rejects war crimes allegations.
But in Bucha, Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk said more than 300 residents had been killed. Many residents tearfully recalled brushes with death and cursed the departed Russians.
“Russia’s despicable attacks against innocent civilians in Irpin and Bucha are yet more evidence that Putin and his army are committing war crimes in Ukraine,” British Prime Minsiter Boris Johnson said.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a statement saying it had found “several cases of Russian military forces committing laws-of-war violations” in Russian-controlled regions such as Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Kyiv.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that images of large numbers of dead Ukrainians in Bucha following Russia’s withdrawal were a “punch in the gut”.
“Those responsible for these war crimes must be made accountable. We will tighten the sanctions against Russia and will assist Ukraine even more in defending itself,” said Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.
Prospects of direct talks
Both Russia and Ukraine have described talks held this week in Istanbul and by video link as “difficult”.
A new round of talks between both sides has not yet been announced. But Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia said on Saturday that enough progress had been made to allow direct talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Mr. Zelensky.