UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply shocked” by images of civilian deaths in Ukraine posted online over the weekend, with Kiev blaming Moscow and Russia rejecting the accusations and calling for a special Security Council meeting on Monday.
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Videos and images reported on Sunday pointed to cases of execution in Bucha, a town west of Kiev, with Ukrainian officials saying people in images circulating over the weekend had been executed by Russian forces and accusing Moscow of carrying out a "massacre" in the town.
'The Ukrainian authorities remained silent all these days, and now they have suddenly posted sensational footage in order to tarnish Russia’s image and make Russia defend itself'
Satellite images also showed a 45-foot-long trench dug into the grounds of a Ukrainian church where a mass grave was found after Russian forces withdrew.
But Moscow denied the accusations with Russian Ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov claiming that US media ignored the shelling of Bucha by Ukrainian armed forces right after Russian troops had left on March 30.
“The Ukrainian authorities remained silent all these days, and now they have suddenly posted sensational footage in order to tarnish Russia’s image and make Russia defend itself," the ambassador said.
The UN chief said he was “deeply shocked” by the images of civilians killed in Bucha.
“It is essential that an independent investigation leads to effective accountability,” Guterres added.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the images were “horrific” and that it was “absolutely unacceptable that civilians are targeted and killed.”
US State Secretary Antony Blinken also commented on the images, telling CNN that President Joe Biden's administration believed Russian forces were committing war crimes and that was helping collect evidence.
"We can't help but see these images as a punch in the gut," Blinken said, adding that “there needs to be accountability.”
Zelensky accuses Russia of genocide
But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has explicitly accused Russia of genocide following the Bucha footage.
“When we find people with, with hands tied behind their back and decapitated. Such things I don’t understand. I don’t comprehend the kids who were killed and tortured,” Zelensky told CBS.
Russia in recent days has withdrawn troops from cities and towns surrounding Kiev, with western officials and media attempting to speculate Moscow’s next move.
Moscow has requested that the United Nations Security Council convene on Monday discuss Bucha.
According to AFP, Bucha Mayor Anatoly Fedoruk told the agency by phone on Saturday that “we have already buried 280 people in mass graves.”
The Russian Defense Ministry on Sunday said on March 31 Fedoruk had confirmed in a video address that there were no Russian troops in Bucha.
“However, he did not say a word about civilians shot dead on the street with their hands tied behind their backs,” the statement said.