Russia-Ukraine recap: Possible war crimes uncovered in Bucha as Russian forces withdraw

Michael Crimmins, Investigative Reporter

There is no shortage of newsworthy topics here in the United States. At times it is easy to get lost in it all, but equally crucial things happen all over the world.

Currently, the most prominent foreign affair is the Russian-Ukrainian crisis. This issue of the Herald’s Global Recap column is devoted solely to the developments that have occurred this week.

These developments are complex, and it is highly encouraged to follow the links and read referenced stories in full.

Here’s a look at some of the headlines from this past week about the Russian-Ukrainian crisis:

Possible war crimes in Bucha

Bodies and charred remains have been seen in the streets in the Ukrainian city of Bucha as Russian forces withdraw, according to an article by the Associated Press.

Bucha’s deputy mayor, Taras Shapravskyi, said on Monday that at least 50 civilians were killed in “extra-judicial killings carried out by Russian troops,” Reuters reports.

It is not clear the circumstances under which they were killed, AP states, but many seemed to have been shot through their temple or in their head. Some bodies even had their hands bound behind their backs, according to Reuters.

High-resolution satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies showed bodies in the open streets for weeks, including when Russian forces would have been in town, according to AP.

The bodies seen near public streets are causing many world leaders to push for Russia to be held accountable for war crimes, AP reports.

“Any war has some rules of engagement for civilians. The Russians have demonstrated that they were consciously killing civilians,” Fedoruk, the mayor, said as he showed Reuters reporters one of the bodies.

Russian authorities continue to deny targeting civilians, NPR states. They call the satellite photos and reports “staged by the west.”

Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy left Kyiv to travel to the city to see for himself the “genocide” of civilians, AP reports.

Zelenskyy is expected to address the United Nations to discuss allegations of war crimes after the discovery of mass graves in the city, according to NPR.

Zelenskyy said on Tuesday that he will push for a thorough investigation and that he believes the true civilian casualties are far greater than reported.

“The occupiers did things that the locals had not seen even during the Nazi occupation 80 years ago,” Zelenskyy said. “The time will come when every Russian will learn the whole truth about who of their fellow citizens killed. Who gave orders. Who turned a blind eye to the murders. We will establish all this. And make it globally known.”

The United Kingdom’s ambassador Barbara Woodward tweeted on Monday saying the UK will call a UN Security Council meeting to discuss Bucha.

“We’ll use our Presidency of the Security Council to ensure there is transparency, accountability and that justice is done,” the tweet stated.

Zelenskyy addressed the UN Security Council meeting after visiting the town giving a speech in which he spoke plainly of the acts committed on Bucha’s civilians. 

“Yesterday I returned from our city of Bucha, recently liberated from the troops of the Russian Federation,” Zelenskyy said. “It is difficult to find a war crime that the occupiers have not committed there. They killed whole families – adults and children. And they tried to burn their bodies. The massacre in our city of Bucha is just one, unfortunately, of many examples of what the occupiers have been doing on our land for 41 days.”

The UK ambassador said she supports U.S. efforts to suspend Russia’s voting authority on the UN Human Rights Council started by U.S. ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield, NPR reports.

“Russia should not have a position of authority in that body, nor should we allow Russia to use their role on the Council as a tool of propaganda to suggest they have a legitimate concern about human rights. In fact, we see everyday, including yesterday, heartbreaking reports about how little they care about human rights,” Thomas-Greenfield said at a press conference in Romania on Monday. “Russia’s participation on the Human Rights Council is a farce. It hurts the credibility of the Council and the U.N. writ large. And it is simply wrong. Which is why we believe it is time for the U.N. General Assembly to suspend them.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted his response to the tragedy in Bucha and vowed to increase sanctions on Russia and stop Putin’s “war machine.”

“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,” the tweet states.

Biden addressed the press on Monday at Fort Lesley J. McNair, calling for more sanctions and reasserting that Putin was a war criminal.

“This guy is brutal…what’s happening in Bucha is outrageous, and everyone’s seen it,” Biden said on Monday. “I’m seeking more sanctions, yes. I’ll have time to announce that to you.”

Though Biden did not answer the question of what the additional sanctions would be, telling the reporters that he’d “let them know” later on.

The chief investigator for the International Criminal Court opened an investigation a month ago into possible war crimes committed in Ukraine, according to AP.

Investigative Reporter Michael Crimmins can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @michael_crimm.