Ukraine’s president showed a harrowing video of dead civilians to the UN Security Council on Tuesday and called for “accountability” for apparent Russian atrocities, amid growing fears that Moscow is planning new offensives.
As global revulsion solidified over the killings of civilians in the town of Bucha, President Volodymyr Zelensky likened Russia’s assault to Nazi war crimes and Western nations tightened sanctions against the Kremlin.
The United States is expected to ban new investment in Russia on Wednesday, while Britain announced it has so far frozen some $350 billion in assets from President Vladimir Putin’s “war chest”.
Despite the pressure, shelling rocked the kyiv region villages of Velyka Dymerka and Bogdanivka, where 12 people were killed by Russian firearms and artillery, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office said on Telegram.
And new warnings have emerged from Ukraine that other shattered communities, including the town of Borodianka, may have suffered even worse fates than Bucha.
Zelensky, in an impassioned speech via video link from Kyiv to the 15-member Security Council, demanded stronger action as he delivered a chilling account of Putin’s six-week war.
People “were killed in their apartments, their houses…civilians were run over by tanks as they sat in their cars in the middle of the road,” Zelensky said.
“They cut off limbs, slit their throats, women were raped and killed in front of their children.”
“Responsibility must be inevitable,” he added, calling for Russia’s exclusion from the Security Council, over which it holds veto power.
“Are you ready to shut down the UN” and abandon international law, the president asked. “If your answer is no, then you must act immediately.”
Zelensky’s plea follows the heartbreaking discovery of civilian casualties in Bucha and other towns near kyiv following the withdrawal of Russian troops, which he and other officials have denounced as war crimes and an attempted of genocide.
“Deliberate Campaign to Kill”
In a later address to Spanish lawmakers, Zelensky compared Russia’s devastating assault to the Nazi bombardment of the town of Guernica in 1937.
During a grim cleanup Tuesday in Bucha, local workers placed the partially burned remains in black bags and transported them to a van.
After touring the devastation, Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky told reporters that “dozens of bodies” remained in Bucha’s apartments and in nearby woods.
“What we saw in Bucha is not the random act of a rogue unit. It is a deliberate campaign to kill, torture, rape, commit atrocities,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Looking ahead, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance expects a Russian push in the “coming weeks” to try to seize all of Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region and to create a land bridge to occupied Crimea.
Washington and the EU have pledged to squeeze the Russian economy until Putin is forced to stop the war he has launched.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, who said she would visit kyiv this week, offered the bloc’s help in documenting evidence of war crimes.
The Kremlin has denied any killing of civilians, saying the images from Bucha and other sites are fakes produced by Ukrainian forces, or that the deaths occurred after Russian troops withdrew.
But Bucha resident Olena told AFP she saw Russian soldiers shoot a man in cold blood after “brutal” units arrived.
“Right before my eyes they shot a man who was going to get food from the supermarket,” said the 43-year-old woman, who declined to give her last name.
Despite Olena’s accounts and other first-hand accounts, Moscow’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia dismissed Zelensky’s allegations of Russian atrocities, telling the Security Council that “unfounded accusations … are not confirmed by any eyewitnesses”.
Zelensky delivered a forceful rebuttal, playing a 90-second graphic video of what he said were images of towns such as Bucha, Irpin, Dymerka and the beleaguered southern port of Mariupol.
Footage showed partially uncovered dead, including children, in shallow graves, bodies in a courtyard, corpses burned in the streets and victims slumped with their hands tied behind their backs.
In a bid to isolate Moscow, Spain, Italy, Denmark and Slovenia expelled dozens of its diplomats suspected of being intelligence agents, after France and Germany did the same on Monday , for a total of some 180 evictions in 48 hours.
The Kremlin called it a “short-sighted move” that would complicate efforts to negotiate an end to hostilities.
Putin has warned of ‘retaliation’ for recent European moves targeting Russian gas giant Gazprom – and said Moscow will ‘monitor’ its food exports to ‘hostile’ countries, raising the specter of further surges in inflation in the world.
Worse than Bucha?
Europe’s worst conflict in decades has killed up to 20,000 people, according to Ukrainian estimates, and 4.25 million have fled the country.
Many in Ukraine are bracing for further Russian bombardment.
According to Ukrainian officials, more than 400 bodies of civilians have been recovered from the Kyiv region, many of them buried in mass graves.
But Zelensky said he had information about worse atrocities in places such as Borodianka.
“Bucha is not the worst,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said on a Russian lawyer’s YouTube channel. “Everyone who has managed to visit Borodianka says it is much, much worse.”
AFP journalists who traveled briefly to the Borodyanka region saw no bodies on the streets, but residents reported many dead and buildings were razed and gutted.
“I know that five civilians were killed,” said 58-year-old Rafik Azimov. “But we don’t know how many are left in the basements of ruined buildings after the bombings.”
“I buried six people,” said another resident, Volodymyr Nahornyi. “More people are under the ruins.”
A chance to speak
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Russian television on Tuesday that Russia was “ready” to continue negotiations.
Ukraine has offered an international agreement with other countries guaranteeing its security in exchange for accepting a neutral, non-nuclear status, not joining NATO and refusing to host foreign military bases .
According to the Ukrainian proposal, Russia would not oppose Kyiv’s accession to the European Union.
The Islamic State is a banned terrorist group in Russia.