By OLEKSANDR STASHEVSKYI and CARA ANNA – Associated Press
BUCHA, Ukraine (AP) – Police and other investigators walked the silent streets of devastated towns around the Ukrainian capital, documenting widespread killings of unarmed civilians and other alleged war crimes by Russian forces that could trigger tougher Western sanctions as early as Wednesday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has maintained calls for war crimes trials for Russian troops and their leaders while warning that they would regroup for fresh attacks on Ukraine’s east and south.
Overnight, Russian forces attacked a fuel depot and factory in Ukraine’s Dnepropetrovsk region, the region’s governor Valentyn Reznichenko said early Wednesday via messaging app Telegram. The number of victims was unclear.
“The night was alarming and difficult. The enemy attacked our area from the air, hitting the oil depot and one of the factories. The oil depot with fuel was destroyed. Rescue workers are still putting out the flames at the facility,” Reznichenko wrote.
In the eastern Luhansk region, shelling in the city of Rubishne killed one person and wounded five others on Tuesday, its governor Serhiy Haidai said on Telegram.
People also read…
Police in the Romanian capital Bucharest said a car rammed the gate of the Russian embassy early Wednesday, bursting into flames and killing the driver. There was initially no information about a possible motive or other details.
The Ukrainian military said Russian troops are still focused on preparing an offensive in eastern Ukraine with the aim of “gaining complete control over the territory of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions”. Parts of the two regions have been under the control of Russian-backed rebels since 2014 and are recognized by Moscow as independent states.
So far, Ukrainian forces have held back Russian troops attempting to advance east but have remained outnumbered in both troops and equipment, Zelenskyy said in a video address to his country late Tuesday.
“But we have no choice – the fate of our country and our people is being decided,” he said. “We know what we are fighting for. And we will do everything to win.”
In recent days there has been a global outcry over what appeared to be premeditated killings of civilians in Bucha and other cities before Russian forces withdrew from the outskirts of Kyiv. The evidence prompted Western nations to expel scores of Moscow diplomats and propose further sanctions.
The US, in coordination with the European Union and the major Group of Seven economies, is expected to impose further sanctions on Wednesday, including a ban on all new investments in Russia, a senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said to discuss the upcoming announcement.
The EU executive also proposed a ban on coal imports from Russia worth an estimated 4 billion euros ($4.4 billion) a year. It would be the first time the 27-nation bloc has sanctioned the country’s lucrative energy industry over the war.
Addressing the UN Security Council via video on Tuesday, Zelenskyy said civilians in towns around Kyiv had been tortured, shot in the back of the head, thrown down wells, blown up with grenades in their homes and crushed in cars by tanks.
Those who carried out the killings and gave the orders “must be tried immediately for war crimes,” he said.
Moscow’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, said “not a single local person” suffered violence when Bucha was under Russian control, echoing Kremlin comments that video footage of dead bodies in the streets was “a gross fake” taken by the Ukrainians had been staged.
“You only saw what they showed you,” he said. “The only ones who would fall for it are western amateurs.”
As Zelenskyi spoke to the diplomats, survivors of the months-long Russian occupation showed investigators the bodies of townspeople allegedly shot by Russian troops.
In the still largely empty streets of Bucha, dogs roamed between destroyed buildings and burning military vehicles. Officials took photos of the bodies before collecting some of them.
Survivors hiding in their homes during the occupation, many of them past middle age, wandered past charred tanks and cracked windows with plastic bags of food and other humanitarian aid. Red Cross workers checked intact houses.
Associated Press journalists in Bucha have counted dozens of plainclothes bodies and interviewed Ukrainians who reported witnessing atrocities. Also, high-resolution satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies showed many of the bodies lay in the open for weeks while Russian forces were in the city.
The dead in Bucha included a pile of six charred bodies, AP journalists testified. It was not clear who they were or how they died. A body is likely that of a child, said Andrii Nebytov, police chief of the Kyiv region.
Many of the dead seen by AP journalists appeared to have been shot at point-blank range, and some had their hands tied or their flesh burned.
The AP and PBS series Frontline have jointly verified at least 90 incidents during the war that appear to violate international law. The War Crimes Watch Ukraine project investigates attacks that appear to be targeted and indiscriminate.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said images of Bucha reveal “not the random act of a rogue entity,” but “a deliberate campaign of killing, torturing, raping, atrocities.” He said the reports of atrocities were “more than credible”.
The chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague launched an investigation into possible war crimes in Ukraine a month ago.
Elsewhere in Ukraine, in Borodyanka, northwest of Kyiv, 25-year-old Dmitriy Yevtushkov searched the rubble of apartment buildings and found only a photo album of his family’s home remained.
In the besieged southern city of Mykolaiv, a passer-by paused to view the bright blossoms of a shattered flower stand amidst bloodstains, the legacy of a Russian shell that killed nine people in the city center. The spectator drew the sign of the cross in the air and moved on.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has warned that Russia’s military is regrouping its forces to deploy to eastern and southern Ukraine for a “crucial phase” of the war. “Moscow is not giving up on its ambitions in Ukraine,” said Stoltenberg.
While both Ukrainian and Russian officials sent optimistic signals after their latest round of talks a week ago, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow will not accept a Ukrainian demand that a prospective peace deal would include an immediate troop withdrawal followed by a Ukrainian referendum on approval.
Edith M. Lederer of the United Nations, Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Ukraine, and Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.