Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during his visit to the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Amur Region, Russia, April 12, 2022.
Yevgeny Biyatov | sputnik | Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his closest ally, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, unveiled a new theory on Tuesday about those responsible for the murders, rapes and tortures of hundreds of civilians in Bucha, Ukraine, while the city was occupied by Russian troops.
It was not, they insisted, the Russian soldiers who, according to witnesses, satellite imagery and forensic evidence, had all gone on a month-long rampage of looting and killing.
The real culprits, according to Lukashenko without evidence, were British agents who carried out a “special psychological operation” in the leafy suburbs of kyiv.
Lukashenko and Putin spoke at a carefully orchestrated press conference at a space launch facility in Vostochny in Russia’s Far East. It was Putin’s first public appearance outside of Moscow since Russia launched its brutal invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Lukashenko said he and Putin discussed in detail the “British-led psychological special operation in Bucha”.
The Belarusian autocrat then told reporters that Russia’s Federal Security Bureau would provide them with documents to back up his seemingly absurd claim.
“If you need addresses, passports, license numbers and marks, what date they got to Bucha and how they got there, then the FSB can provide those documents,” Lukashenko said, according to an NBC translation of his remarks.
Putin said Lukashenko gave him “documents” about the Bucha killings which he handed over to the FSB.
“How, who came into this settlement and created the conditions for organizing this provocation and fakery, the FSB has relevant interceptions,” he told reporters.
The British Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday on Lukashenko’s allegations.
Putin has previously said the deaths in Bucha were “fake”, and the Kremlin insists the hundreds of bodies discovered were staged there.
But Tuesday appeared to be the first time Belarus and Russian security services have both helped promote the claim that Britain was the secret power behind the plot.
Russian troops took over dozens of towns like Bucha in northern Ukraine in the first weeks of their failed campaign to take the capital, kyiv. When it became apparent that the Kremlin could not capture the city, Russian troops retreated, leaving a trail of carnage and destruction in their wake.
In Bucha alone, more than 400 civilians have been found dead since the Russians withdrew, many of them bearing the marks of execution, rape and torture. Almost overnight, an international consortium tasked with documenting alleged war crimes has come together, and more than a dozen countries are participating in the process.
Speaking in Vostochny, Putin used both whataboutism and disinformation to try to distract from the atrocities of Russian soldiers.
At one point he complained that NATO had also caused civilian deaths in combat, suggesting that Western outrage against Russia over civilian deaths at Bucha was hypocritical.
Then he compared Bucha to towns in Syria where Russian President Bashar al Assad used chemical weapons during a civil war in 2013 and later accused rebels of gassing their own supporters in order to frame Assad.
As Putin and Lukashenko spun elaborate plots to try to explain away atrocities originating in Syria, the international community strengthened its resolve this week as more and more evidence emerged of probable war crimes committed by Russian troops. .
Hours after Putin and Lukashenko met and made their bizarre claims about British agents, President Joe Biden said that same evidence seemed to him worse than isolated war crimes – it looked like genocide.
“I called it genocide because it’s become increasingly clear that Putin is just trying to eliminate the very idea of being able to be Ukrainian,” Biden said Tuesday night.
“The evidence is mounting. It looks different than last week. More and more evidence is literally coming out of the horrible things the Russians did in Ukraine,” he said.