Ukraine: Dozens of dead civilians found on street in Bucha as Russian forces retreat
The dead bodies of dozens of civilians have been found scattered across the streets of a town recaptured by Ukranian forces.
Journalists in Bucha, a suburb northwest of Kyiv, watched as Ukrainian soldiers backed by a column of tanks and other armoured vehicles used cables to drag bodies off of a street from a distance, fearing they may have been rigged to explode.
Locals said the dead were civilians who were killed by departing Russian soldiers without provocation.
One AFP reporter said they had seen at least 20 bodies on the ground. Bucha’s mayor, Anatoliy Fedoruk, said more than 300 residents had been killed.
“Those people were just walking and they shot them without any reason. Bang,” said a Bucha resident who declined to give his name citing safety reasons. “In the next neighborhood, Stekolka, it was even worse. They would shoot without asking any question.”
Ukraine said on Saturday its forces had seized back all areas around Kyiv, claiming complete control of the capital region for the first time since Russia launched the invasion.
Troops have retaken more than 30 towns and villages around Kyiv since Russia pulled back from the area this week, Ukrainian officials said.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky warned in his nightly video address that departing Russian troops were creating a “catastrophic” situation for civilians by leaving mines around homes, abandoned equipment and “even the bodies of those killed”.
Boris Johnson spoke with Mr Zelensky on Saturday evening, a Downing Street spokesperson said.
“He congratulated Ukraine’s brave armed forces for successfully pushing back Russia’s invading army in a number of areas, but recognised the huge challenges that remain and the immense suffering being inflicted on civilians,” they added.
The prime minister updated Mr Zelensky on the progress made at the recent military donor conference, convened by the UK with 35 countries, No 10 said, and “committed to continue to step up defensive support”.
Andrey Kelin, Moscow’s ambassador in London, claimed Britain’s decision to send arms supplies to the Ukrainian army had made the war “even bloodier”.
His comments came after the Starstreak high-velocity missile system, supplied to Ukraine by Britain in March along with anti-tank weapons, was involved in an attack on a Russian aircraft in the Luhansk region.
They also follow British defence secretary Ben Wallace’s promise to send more lethal aid to Kyiv.
Mr Kelin told the Tass news agency: “All arms supplies are destabilising, particularly those mentioned by Wallace.
David Arakhamia, a Ukrainian negotiator, reportedly indicated draft peace treaty documents were at an advanced enough stage to allow for direct consultations between the two nations’ leaders.
The Interfax Ukraine agency quoted Mr Arakhamia as telling Ukrainian television Russia accepted Ukraine’s overall position, with the exception of its stance on Crimea.
In the east, a Red Cross convoy was again seeking to evacuate civilians from the besieged port city of Mariupol after abandoning an attempt on Friday because of a lack of security guarantees. But that renewed mission was not expected to reach the port until at least Sunday.
The Russian Defence Ministry blamed the Red Cross for humanitarian aid columns being unable to reach the city on Friday or Saturday.
RIA news agency cited a senior official as saying due to the actions of the Red Cross, the convoys had left very late and were not able to reach Mariupol on time.
Russia has depicted its drawdown of forces near Kyiv as a goodwill gesture in peace negotiations, but Ukraine and its allies say Russian forces have been forced to regroup after suffering heavy losses.
Pope Francis on Saturday came the closest he has yet to criticising Russian president Vladimir Putin since the invasion began on 24 February.
During a visit to Malta, the head of the Catholic Church criticised the “infantile” war in Ukraine, saying the world thought such behaviour was a thing of the “distant past”.
He said: “Once again, some potentate, sadly caught up in anachronistic claims of nationalist interests, is provoking and fomenting conflicts, whereas ordinary people sense the need to build a future that, will either be shared, or not be at all.”
Missing Ukrainian photographer and videographer Maksim Levin, who was working for a Ukrainian news website and was a long-time contributor to Reuters news agency, was found dead in a village north of Kyiv on Friday.
Concerns were raised for the 41-year-old journalist after he went missing on 13 March while photographing fighting taking place near the capital.
Russia denies targeting civilians in what Mr Putin calls a “special military operation” aimed at demilitarising and “denazifying” Ukraine.