Here’s what a CNN crew at the scene of a mass grave in the Ukrainian town of Bucha saw
“This is genocide,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday, speaking after images emerged of civilian bodies scattered in the streets of Bucha, northwest of the capital kyiv, following the withdrawal of Russian forces from the area.
When asked during an appearance on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” if Russia was committing genocide in Ukraine, Zelensky replied, “It is. It is genocide.”
“The elimination of the whole nation and the people. We are the citizens of Ukraine. We have more than 100 nationalities. It is about the destruction and extermination of all these nationalities,” he continued.
Ukraine does not want to be “subject to the policy of the Russian Federation”, Zelensky said, adding that this is “the reason why we are being destroyed and exterminated”.
“This is happening in 21st century Europe. So it’s the torture of the whole nation,” the president told viewers.
The alleged atrocities in Bucha have sparked international outrage, with Western leaders calling for war crimes investigations and new sanctions against Russia.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that the State Department would help document all atrocities committed by the Russian military against Ukrainian civilians. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called the civilian deaths in Bucha “brutal” and said “I warmly welcome” an investigation by the International Criminal Court, which has opened a war crimes probe into Ukraine.
Response from Russia: The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that the numerous images were “false”, saying that “not a single local resident suffered any violent actions” during the Russian occupation of Bucha. “In the settlements of the Kyiv region, Russian military personnel delivered and distributed 452 tons of humanitarian aid to civilians,” he said in a statement.
A separate statement claimed the footage was staged. “Stories about Bucha have appeared in several foreign media at once, which looks like a planned media campaign,” the statement said. “Taking into account that the troops left the city on March 30, where were the images for four days? Their absence only confirms the fake.”
The Russian government has always responded to allegations of civilian casualties inflicted by Russian forces with blanket denials. After the Russian Air Force bombed a maternity hospital on March 9, Russian officials tried to cast doubt on numerous media reports, with a Russian diplomat blaming a victim of the bombing – a woman who escaped the bombing, bloodied and still pregnant – to be an actor and not a real victim.
CNN was unable to independently confirm details of the men’s deaths. CNN had requested comments from the Russian Defense Ministry regarding allegations of civilian executions in the Kyiv region and other parts of Ukraine.
CNN’s Nathan Hodge, Chandelis Duster and Jeremy Herb contributed to this post.