Ukraine on Sunday accused the Russian army of having committed a “deliberate massacre” in Boutcha, after the discovery of numerous corpses in this city northwest of Kyiv which aroused the indignation of European and British officials, the the very day the UN attempts a mission in Moscow.
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As signs of abuse emerged in areas from which the Russians withdrew, several strikes hit the strategic city of Odessa, Ukraine’s main port on the Black Sea on Sunday.
According to Ukraine, the localities of Irpin, Boutcha, Gostomel and the entire Kyiv region “have been liberated from the invader” who are abandoning key towns near the capital as well as Cherniguiv, in the north of the country, to redeploy towards the East and the South and “keep control” of the territories they occupy there.
But the Russians leave behind them “a total disaster and many dangers”, denounced Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Facebook, accusing them of “mining the territories they are leaving, houses, ammunition and even corpses”.
In a statement on Sunday, the human rights organization Human Rights Watch denounced abuses against civilians amounting to “war crimes” by Russian soldiers in the regions of Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Kyiv .
HRW says it has documented several cases of “violations of the laws of war”, citing that of a woman repeatedly raped and beaten by a Russian soldier, the summary executions of seven men, “other cases of violence” and ” threats against civilians”, as well as looting.
In Boutcha, an AFP journalist saw the bodies of around twenty men lying in a street on Saturday. These people were “all killed with a bullet in the back of the head”, according to Anatoly Fedorouk, the mayor of this city taken back from the Russians, where nearly 300 corpses were buried in mass graves.
“We found mass graves. We found people with their hands and legs tied up (…) and with gunshots, bullet holes, in the back of their heads,” the Ukrainian president’s spokesman told the BBC. , Sergei Nikiforovil. “They were clearly civilians and they were executed.” “It looks exactly like war crimes,” he said.
“The Boutcha massacre was deliberate. The Russians want to eliminate as many Ukrainians as they can. We have to stop them and put them out. I demand devastating new G7 sanctions NOW,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba wrote on Twitter.
Her British counterpart Liz Truss said she was “horrified by the atrocities in Boutcha and other towns” and called for a “war crimes investigation”.
The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, also said he was “shocked by the haunting images of atrocities committed by the Russian army in the liberated region of Kyiv” on Twitter.
“The EU is helping Ukraine and NGOs to gather the necessary evidence for prosecution in international courts,” he said, adding: “more EU sanctions and help are on the way. “.
Butcha and the nearby town of Irpin, rendered unrecognizable by shelling, have been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting since Russia attacked Ukraine on February 24, when Russian soldiers were trying to surround Kyiv.
On Sunday morning, the historic city of Odessa suffered a series of airstrikes.
Around 6 a.m. (0300 GMT), half a dozen explosions shook the walls of the port city so far spared from the fighting, according to AFP journalists and residents. Then a cloud of black smoke blocked part of the horizon.
These strikes did not cause casualties according to the regional command of the Ukrainian army. But the Russian Defense Ministry claimed that “high-precision missile fire from sea and land” had destroyed “a refinery and three fuel and lubricant depots” near that town.
While the war has caused at least thousands of deaths and forced into exile nearly 4.2 million Ukrainians, 90% of whom are women and children, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Foreign Affairs humanitarians, the Briton Martin Griffiths, will be in Moscow on Sunday, before going to Kyiv, mandated to seek a humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine.
Until now, Russia has refused any visit by a senior UN official whose main subject is Ukraine.
Its chief negotiator in the peace talks with Ukraine, Vladimir Medinski, praised on Sunday a “more realistic” position of Kyiv ready, under conditions, to accept a neutral and denuclearized status of the country, demanded by Moscow.
But he said he did not “share the optimism” of Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia, who suggested on Saturday that talks aimed at ending hostilities had made considerable progress. “Ukrainian diplomatic and military + experts + are slow to confirm even the agreements already reached at the political level” affirmed Mr. Medinski.
Efforts by Russian troops to consolidate their positions in southern and eastern Ukraine have so far met with resistance from Ukrainians in Mariupol, where some 160,000 people are believed to still be stranded and at least 5,000 of whom have been killed. , according to local authorities.
For Moscow, controlling Mariupol would ensure territorial continuity from Crimea to the two pro-Russian separatist republics of Donbass, Donetsk and Lugansk.
Unable for weeks, evacuations began on a small scale. On Saturday, some “1,263 people” traveled from Mariupol and Berdiansk to Zaporozhye by their own means, and a dozen buses in a convoy left Berdiansk, with 300 Mariupol residents on board, the Deputy Prime Minister announced in the evening. Iryna Vereshchuk on Telegram. Other evacuations took place in the east of the country.
Russian forces also continue “to partially block the city of Kharkiv”, the second largest city in Ukraine, located in the east.
Russia also plans to “create battalions made up of residents + volunteers + from the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine and mercenaries”, notes the same source.
Additional pressure on Moscow, the Baltic states have stopped importing Russian natural gas which “has not been sent to Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania since April 1”, the company’s leader said on Saturday. Latvian storage Conexus Baltic Grid. The Baltic countries are now served by gas reserves stored underground in Latvia.
“From this month, no more Russian gas in Lithuania,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda tweeted, calling on the rest of the European Union to follow the Baltic example.
According to Eurostat, in 2020 Russia accounted for 93% of Estonian natural gas imports, 100% of Latvian imports and 41.8% of Lithuanian imports.
The United States banned the import of Russian oil and gas after the invasion of Ukraine, but not the EU, which was sourcing around 40% from Russia in 2021.