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Ukraine accuses retreating Russians of massacring civilians

BUCHA, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian troops have found brutalized bodies with bound hands, gunshot wounds to the head and signs of torture after Russian soldiers withdrew from the outskirts of kyiv, authorities said Sunday, sparking new calls for a war crimes investigation and sanctions against Russia.

Associated Press reporters in Bucha, a small town northwest of the capital, saw the bodies of at least nine people in civilian clothes who appeared to have been killed at close range. At least two had their hands tied behind their backs. The AP also saw two bodies wrapped in plastic, bound with duct tape and thrown into a ditch.

Authorities said they were documenting evidence of alleged atrocities to add to their case to prosecute Russian officials for war crimes. To convict, prosecutors at the International Criminal Court will have to show a pattern of indiscriminate murderous attacks on civilians during the Russian invasion.

Oleksiy Arestovych, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said dozens of residents were found killed on the streets of Bucha and in the Kyiv suburbs of Irpin and Hostomel in what looked like a “scene from a movie of horror”.

Some people were shot in the head and had their hands tied, and some bodies showed signs of torture, Arestovych said. Cases of rape have also been reported, he said.

A day earlier, AP reporters saw Ukrainian soldiers carefully removing at least six bodies from a street in Bucha with cables in case the Russians had any bodies booby-trapped with explosives before their removal. Local residents said the dead were civilians killed without provocation, a claim that could not be independently verified.

“What happened in Bucha and other Kyiv suburbs can only be described as genocide,” Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko told German newspaper Bild. Klitschko called on other nations to immediately end imports of Russian gas, saying they were financing the killings.

“No more pennies should go to Russia. It’s blood money used to slaughter people. The oil and gas embargo must take place immediately,” the mayor said.

Russian troops entered Ukraine from three sides on February 24, and soldiers who entered from northern Belarus spent weeks trying to make their way to kyiv. Their advance stalled in the face of a resolute challenge from Ukraine’s defenders, and Moscow said this week it would focus the invasion elsewhere in the future.

Signs of fierce fighting were everywhere in the wake of the withdrawal of Russian troops north to return to Belarus: destroyed armored vehicles from both armies lay in the streets and fields with military equipment strewn about. Ukraine’s military said its troops continued to search areas outside the capital for mines, dead and lingering Russian fighters.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba also called for tougher sanctions against Russia, including a full energy embargo, over finds north of kyiv. Kuleba tweeted on Sunday that the “Bucha massacre was deliberate”, alleging that “the Russians aim to eliminate as many Ukrainians as possible”.

Charles Michel, President of the European Council, wrote on Twitter that he was shocked by the “haunting images of atrocities committed by the Russian military” in the capital region. The EU and non-governmental organizations were helping to preserve evidence of the war. crimes, according to Michel, who promised “new EU sanctions” against Russia.

The foreign ministers of France, Germany, Italy and the UK separately condemned what was described and said Russia would be held accountable.

“We will not allow Russia to cover up its involvement in these atrocities with cynical disinformation and will ensure that the reality of Russia’s actions comes to light,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said.

As Russia withdrew from the capital, other parts of the country were under siege. Russia said it was leading troops to eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years.

Mariupol, a southeastern port on the Sea of ​​Azov, remained cut off from the rest of the country as Russian ground forces fought to occupy the city. Around 100,000 civilians – less than a quarter of the pre-war population of 430,000 – would be trapped there with little or no food, water, fuel and medicine.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it hoped a team of nine staff and three vehicles it sent on Saturday to help evacuate residents would reach Mariupol on Sunday, but warned: “The situation on the ground is unstable and subject to rapid change”.

Ukrainian authorities say Russia agreed days ago to allow safe passage from the city, which has seen some of the worst attacks and suffering, but similar agreements have broken down several times. resumed under continuous bombardment.

A supermarket parking lot in the Ukrainian town of Zaporizhzhia has become the gathering point for tens of thousands of people fleeing Mariupol.

Peycheva Olena, who walked out of the besieged city, told Britain’s Sky News she was forced to leave her husband’s body unburied when he was shot and killed.

“There were bombardments, and we tried to train him but it was too much, we couldn’t,” explained his daughter, Kristina Katrikova.

As the geography of the battlefield has transformed, little has changed for many Ukrainians on the 39th day of a war that has sent more than 4 million people fleeing the country as refugees and displaced millions of others from their homes.

The mayor of Chernihiv, also under attack for weeks, said on Sunday that relentless Russian shelling had destroyed 70% of the northern city. As in Mariupol, Chernihiv was cut off from shipments of food and other supplies.

“People are thinking how they can live until tomorrow,” Mayor Vladyslav Atroshenko said.

On Sunday morning, Russian forces launched missiles at the Black Sea port of Odessa in southern Ukraine, sending clouds of black smoke that veiled parts of the city. The Russian military said the targets were an oil processing plant and fuel depots around Odessa, which is Ukraine’s largest port and home to its navy.

“I live in this eight-storey building. At six in the morning, Russia launched an attack and this piece of rock reached my house,” said Maiesienko Ilia, who lives near one of the targeted facilities.

Odessa city council said Ukrainian air defenses shot down missiles before they hit the city. Ukrainian army spokesman Vladyslav Nazarov said the attack caused no casualties.

The Kharkiv regional governor said on Sunday that Russian artillery and tanks had carried out more than 20 strikes on Ukraine’s second-largest city and its outskirts in the northeast of the country over the past day.

The head of Ukraine’s delegation in talks with Russia says Moscow negotiators informally agreed to most of a draft proposal discussed in face-to-face talks in Istanbul this week, but no written confirmation has been forthcoming. has been provided.

Ukrainian negotiator Davyd Arakhamia told Ukrainian television he hoped the proposal was developed enough for Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet to discuss it. But Russia’s top negotiator in talks with Ukraine, Vladimir Medinksy, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying it was too early to talk about a meeting between the two leaders.

As his country’s troops recaptured territory north of the capital from departing Russian troops, Zelenskyy called on all Ukrainians to do all they could “to thwart the enemy’s tactics and weaken their capabilities”.

“Peace will not be the result of decisions made by the enemy somewhere in Moscow. There is no need to entertain vain hopes that they will simply leave our land. We can only have peace by fighting,” Zelenskyy said Saturday night.

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Yuras Karmanau reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Andrea Rosa in Irpin, Ukraine, and Associated Press reporters around the world contributed to this report.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine