Larisa Savenko outside her damaged house in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, Ukraine, after withdrawal of Russian troops from the town (Heidi Levine/Washington Post)

Sunday’s Coverage: Russia’s Mass Execution of Civilians Amid Withdrawal from Kyiv Region


France has expelled 35 Russian personnel “whose activities are against our interests”.

The expulsions follow similar actions by other European countries, including Poland’s demand for the removal of 45 staff, against Russians suspected of intelligence activities while operating under diplomatic cover.

Moscow has said it will respond to the French measure.


Ukraine Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova says the town of Borodyanka will have the highest number of victims of Russian military operations in the Kyiv region — even greater than those in Bucha, 23 km (14 miles) to the east.

We can speak of Kyiv region because yesterday we got access to these territories and are currently working in Irpin, Bucha, Vorzel.

In fact, the worst situation with civilian victims is in Borodyanka. I think we will speak of Borodyanka separately.



US President Joe Biden has called for a “brutal” Vladimir Putin to be tried for war crimes.

Biden referred to the Russian mass killing of civilians in Bucha as “outrageous”, saying he would seek more sanctions on Moscow.

His statement followed the announcement that the US will seek the suspension of Russia from the UN Human Rights Council.


European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says the European Union is ready to send joint investigations teams to Ukraine to document Russian war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Von der Leyen spoke with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy about the “dreadful murders” in Bucha and other towns.

She said, “The harrowing images cannot and will not be left unanswered. The perpetrators of these heinous crimes must not go unpunished.”

At the request of Ukraine, the US is supporting a team of international prosecutors to collect evidence of Russia’s atrocities.

“We are tracking and documenting atrocities and sharing information with institutions working to hold responsible those accountable,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.


The governor of the Zhytomyr region, west of Kyiv and bordering Belarus, says no Russian forces remain in the area.


Ukraine Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk has confirmed that Russian forces have blocked the Red Cross from providing aid to and evacuating civilians from besieged Mariupol for a fourth straight day (see 1243 GMT).

A Red Cross spokesperson confirmed that the convoy is being held up in town of Manhush, 20km (12.5 miles) west of Mariupol.


Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has announced the expulsion of the Russian Ambassador.

The expulsion follows the Foreign Ministry’s condemnation of the “horrific atrocities in Bucha and other towns in Ukraine” with “deliberate cruelty and violence against civilians by Russian forces”: “Such apparent war crimes must be thoroughly investigated and Russia must be held to account.”


Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has gone to Bucha.

Zelenskiy spoke from the town on national TV: “These are war crimes and will be recognised by the world as genocide….We know of thousands of people [across Ukraine] killed and tortured, with severed limbs, raped women and murdered children.”

The President said Russia’s atrocities make it harder to pursue negotiations.


UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet says all bodies in Bucha must be exhumed and identified to ensure a full investigation.

Reports emerging from this and other areas raise serious and disturbing questions about possible war crimes, grave breaches of international humanitarian law and serious violations of international human rights law….

It is essential that all bodies are exhumed and identified so that victims’ families can be informed, and the exact causes of death established….

It is vital that all efforts are made to ensure there are independent and effective investigations into what happened in Bucha to ensure truth, justice and accountability, as well as reparations and remedy for victims and their families.


For a fourth straight day, the Red Cross has been unable to enter the besieged city of Mariupol in southern Ukraine.

Spokesperson Jason Straziuso, told Reuters, “Due to security conditions, our team has not been able to reach Mariupol today.”

Russia forces continue to block any aid to the estimated 160,000 people still in the city on the Sea of Azov.


The Sumy region in northeast Ukraine is clear of Russian troops, says the governor.

Sumy is to the east of Kyiv and Chernihiv and to the west of the second city of Kharkiv.


Ukrainian officials have confirmed the execution by Russian troops of the head of a village near Kyiv and of her family.

The bodies of village leader Olha Sukhenko, her husband Ihor, and her son Oleksandr were found in a forest near the village of Motyzhyn, about 35 miles from Kyiv.

Interior Ministry official Anton Herashchenko said:

The occupiers suspected they were collaborating with our military, giving us locations of where to target our artillery. These scum tortured, slaughtered and killed the whole family. They will be responsible for this.


Journalists in Ukraine believe there will be revelations of more mass killings of Ukrainian civilians by Russian forces, possibly even greater than in Bucha.


Another account of the killing of a civilian by Russian troops near Kyiv:


Israel Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman has declined to condemn Russia’s mass killing of Ukrainian civilians.

Liberman told Israeli radio, “There are difficult images, and we all condemn all war crimes….[But] this is about mutual accusations.”

He promoted Russia’s effort to cover up the killings: a call for a UN Security Council meeting to accuse “Ukrainian radicals” of a “blatant provocation”.

Russia is blaming Ukraine and Ukraine is blaming Russia. We condemn, but really what we need to understand is that there is a bloody war and we must, on the one hand, maintain Israel’s moral position and on the other hand preserve the interests of the State of Israel.

He claimed good Israeli relations with both countries, emphasizing the Russian Army’s presence in Syria and citing a greater concern with the Iran nuclear talks.

In contrast, Defense Minister Benny Gantz extended the condemnation by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid of the killings, albeit without naming Russia: “I condemn carnage of this kind. It is certainly a war crime.”


Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has spoken of possible “genocide” in Russia’s mass killing of Ukrainian civilians.

We will do everything to ensure that those who have perpetrated these war crimes do not go unpunished, and therefore appear before the courts… to deal with these alleged cases of [crimes against] humanity, war crimes and — why not say it too? — genocide.

Sanchez told an economic forum in Madrid, “Putin’s unjustified aggression has brought war back to the gates of the European Union.”

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Monday:

I am deeply shocked at the fact that on the outskirts of Kyiv terrible atrocities have been perpetrated against civilians.

The killing of innocent civilians violates international humanitarian law. It is absolutely intolerable and Japan condemns it in the strongest terms….Russia must be held strictly accountable for those acts.


Russia’s weekend strikes on Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine are continuing this morning.

Russian forces fired rockets early Monday, killing at least one person and injuring more than a dozen, according to the head of the regional military administration.

A Russian attack on the regional administration building in Mykolaiv killed at least 35 people last Tuesday.


Ukrainian journalist Oleh Baturin has spoken of his injuries — with threats of torture, mutilation, and death — during eight days in detention by Russian forces.

Baturin, a reporter with the newspaper Novyi Den (New Day), was seized on March 12 in Russian-occupied Kherson in southern Ukraine. He was given little water, food, or medicine, and had four ribs broken during interrogations and beatings.

Baturin told the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe:

They tortured me, threatened to mutilate me, threatened to kill me, asked a lot of stupid questions – who are the organisers of pro-Ukrainian rallies in the Kherson region, who runs Telegram channels, who have weapons, or do we have activists and independent journalists from Belarus?

The Russian invaders have only one goal – to break down the citizens of Ukraine, to intimidate them and to completely destroy independent journalism, to crush civil activists and journalists physically and psychologically.


French President Emmanuel Macron has called for toughened sanctions on Russia, targeting oil and coal exports, over the mass killing of Ukrainian civilians by Russian forces.

Macron said in an interview on nationa radio:

There are very clear clues pointing to war crimes. It is more or less established that the Russian army is responsible.

What happened in Bucha demands a new round of sanctions and very clear measures.


Ukraine’s military declares that Russia has launched a “hidden mobilization” of about 60,000 soldiers to rebuild units which have suffered losses during the invasion.

The UK Defence Ministry supported the claim: “Russian forces are continuing to consolidate and reorganise as they refocus their offensive into the Donbas region in the east of Ukraine. Russian troops, including mercenaries from the Russian state-linked Wagner private military company, are being moved into the area.”

The Ukraine military’s report said forces thwarted seven attacks in the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk in the Donbas over the past 24 hours.

Serhiy Haidai, head of the Luhansk regional military administration, said:

I can confirm that there is a significant accumulation of troops and military equipment that is getting prepared for the major breakthrough.

There was an attempt of a breakthrough in Rubizhne this night, our defenders repelled an attack. We are holding out, but we do see there’s a major accumulation of troops.

ORIGINAL ENTRY: Reclaiming territory after the Russian withdrawal in northern Ukraine, officials are compiling evidence of the hundreds of civilians killed by the occupying forces in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, and other towns.

International and national leaders condemned the apparent war crimes on Sunday, raising questions about the response to Moscow — military, political, economic, and legal — in the next phase of Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

As the Ukrainian military moved into Bucha last Thursday after Russia’s five-week occupation, it found bodies strewn across the streets. Journalists from AFP saw the bodies of at least 22 people in civilian clothes, one with his hands tied behind his back. Associated Press reporters saw at least 21 victims in various locations. One group of nine, scattered on a site used by the Russian troops as a base, had been killed at close range. At least two had their hands tied behind their backs, one was shot in the head, and another’s legs were bound.

Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk said another 280 people were buried in mass graves. The head of the local rescue, Serhiy Kaplychniy, showed journalists one grave behind a church with 57 corpses. All the dead, some with hands and feet poking through the clay, were in civilian clothes.

The Witness Testimony

Victims and witnesses testified about executions. Halyna Tovkach, 55, spoke of the killing of her husband and of three family members — two young boys and their mother — with whom they were leaving Bucha on March 5. Their two-car convoy was halted by Russian troops, who machine-gunned the group: Halyna was shot in the shoulder but fled.

Taras Schevchenko, 43, said Russian soldiers refused to allow men to leave through a humanitarian corridor and then shot at them as they fled across an open field. Some of the bodies on the streets had been “squashed by tanks … like animal skin rugs”.

Shevchenko’s mother, Yevdokia, 77, said she saw an elderly man killed, as he stood next to his wife, after he challenged a Russian soldier. “They shot him dead, and ordered the woman to leave,” she said.

Hanna Herega described the killing of a fellow Bucha resident:

He went to get some wood when all of a sudden they started shooting. They hit him a bit above the heel, crushing the bone, and he fell down.

The shooter shouted: “Don’t scream or I will shoot!” and they turned away. Then they shot off his left leg completely, with the boot. Then they shot him all over this side [on the chest.] And another shot went slightly below the temple. It was a controlled shot to the head.

Larisa Savenko, 72, said, “A Russian APC was parked in my garden for three days. Five gunmen entered my house, they looked at my documents and took our phones away. [They] told us we are lucky to have them, because other Russian troops would have already shot [us].”

Ukrainian officials say they have recovered the bodies of 410 civilians in towns near Kyiv that were recaptured in recent days.

Zelenskiy to Russian Mothers: “How Did Your Sons Become Butchers?”

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoke of the mass killings in his late-night video address to the nation.

Hundreds of people were killed. Tortured, executed civilians. Corpses on the streets….

Concentrated evil has come to our land. Murderers. Torturers. Rapists. Looters. Who call themselves the army. And who deserve only death after what they did.

He continued with a direct appeal:

I want every mother of every Russian soldier to see the bodies of the killed people in Bucha, in Irpin, in Hostomel. What did they do? Why were they killed? What did the man who was riding his bicycle down the street do?

Why were ordinary civilians in an ordinary peaceful city tortured to death? Why were women strangled after their earrings were ripped out of their ears? How could women be raped and killed in front of children?

How could their corpses be desecrated even after death? Why did they crush the bodies of people with tanks? What did the Ukrainian city of Bucha do to your Russia? How did all this become possible?

Russian mothers! Even if you raised looters, how did they also become butchers?…They killed deliberately and with pleasure.”

He told Russians, “This is how the Russian state will now be perceived. This is your image. Your culture and human appearance perished together with the Ukrainian men and women to whom you came.”

International Condemnation

As the reports circulated of the scale of the killings, UN Secretary General António Guterres called for an independent investigation.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she was “appalled by reports of unspeakable horrors in areas from which Russia is withdrawing”. She also sought an urgent independent investigation so “perpetrators of war crimes will be held accountable”. European Council head Charles Michel said he was shocked by “haunting images of atrocities committed by [the] Russian army” and pledged “further EU sanctions and support are on their way”.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, spoke of the “terrible and horrifying” images of “streets littered with bodies” and “bodies buried in makeshift conditions”. In a significant shift from Germany, with its dependence on Russian energy supplies, Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht, said the European Union should consider a ban on gas imports from Russia.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on CNN of “a punch in the gut” from seeing the mass killings: “We can’t become numb to this. We can’t normalize this. This is the reality of what is going on every single day as long as Russia’s brutality against Ukraine continues.”

Russian Disinformation

Repeating its tactic after other mass killings of civilians, from its intervention in the Syrian confict to its attacks on Mariupol in southern Ukraine, Russia’s Defense Ministry said the videos and photos from Bucha were “another staged performance by the Kyiv regime”.

Hoping to divert attention and escape responsibility, Moscow said it wants an emergency UN Security Council meeting on Monday, pushing the disinformation of the “provocation of Ukrainian radicals in Bucha”.

Russia’s Ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, tried another disinformation approach:

I would like to emphasize with full responsibility that not a single civilian suffered from violence when the town was controlled by the Russian Armed Forces. On the contrary, our troops delivered 452 tonnes of humanitarian aid for civilians.

Meanwhile, the fact that the Ukrainian Armed Forces shelled the town of Bucha right after Russian troops had left was deliberately ignored in the US. This is what could have caused civilian casualties.

Ukraine MP Yelyzaveta Yasko responded:

It’s such a terrible cynicism. The question is how did these societies end up, and that political leadership of Russia end up that they can so easily justify the crimes and the murders and saying that it was just staged?