Will the Bucha massacre be a turning point in the Ukrainian war?

The massacre uncovered in Bucha, a Ukrainian town, seems to have pushed the war to a new low – but could the universal horror galvanize the West into more action?

Here’s a breakdown of how the disturbing discovery could move the whole conflict in a new direction.

Street with destroyed Russian military machines in the town of Bucha taken over by the Ukrainian army near kyiv.

NurPhoto via Getty Images

What happened to Bucha?

Bucha – just 25 kilometers from kyiv – was targeted by Russian forces as they were en route to conquer the capital in March.

It soon became a front line in the conflict as the Ukrainians fought back.

Russian forces then began to withdraw from the area around March 30, apparently due to a lack of resources, meaning journalists were once again able to gain access to the besieged city.

The Associated Press published from the city showing bodies on the streets of Bucha with their hands tied behind their backs and injuries to the back of their heads.

According to the news agency, at least 21 bodies were found, including at least nine in civilian clothes.

Anatoly Fedoruk, the mayor of Bucha, said more than 300 townspeople were killed, while Ukrainian prosecutors allege Russian forces used the basement of a house as a torture chamber.

Satellite images also showed a 45-foot-long mass grave in the town.

Local residents walk through the destroyed residential area on April 4, 2022 in Bucha, Ukraine.
Local residents walk through the destroyed residential area on April 4, 2022 in Bucha, Ukraine.

Anastasia Vlasova via Getty Images

Russia was quick to deny any involvement, alleging “all Russian units completely withdrew from Bucha” by the end of March – suggesting the bodies were strategically placed by the Ukrainians.

Moscow has also denied any charges of war crimes and says “Ukrainian radicals” are responsible for the Bucha massacre because “not a single civilian” faced violent military action by Russian forces.

He claimed that the footage of the corpses was “a scene run by the kyiv regime for Western media.”

This was quickly denied by other satellite images from March 19, where bodies can be seen lying in the street while the city was still occupied by the Russians.

Military analyst Professor Michael Clarke told Sky News the massacre was likely due to Russian soldiers operating in “small friendship groups”.

He alleged that these cliques got out of control, vindictive that the people of Bucha decided to go on with their lives as usual when Russia invaded and this is what led to the massacre.

War crimes charges on the rise

The UN Security Council is due to meet on Tuesday to discuss potential war crimes committed by the Russian military, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

War crimes are defined by the UN as a serious violation of international humanitarian law committed against civilians or “enemy combatants”.

The West has already repeatedly accused Russia of committing war crimes in recent weeks, and the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has already opened an investigation into this.

Condemnation against Russia has only grown since the Bucha massacre made headlines.

US President Joe Biden has now called for a war crimes trial against Putin, whom he calls a “war criminal”.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the photographs showed “the incredible brutality of Russian leaders and those who follow its propaganda”, while French President Emmanuel Macron said there is now “proof clear of war crimes” to Bucha.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, also said she was “horrified” by the sight of the massacre and the photographs raised “serious and disturbing questions about possible war crimes, serious violations of international humanitarian law and serious violations of international human rights law”. ”.

Ukraine’s “genocide” allegations

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called Bucha’s evidence “genocide”.

He visited Bucha on his first trip outside kyiv since the war began in February and quickly struggled to contain his emotions as he witnessed the devastation.

He said civilians in these liberated areas had been subjected to treatment “unheard of even during the Nazi occupation 80 years ago”.

On Sunday alone, Zelenskyy criticized the way “hundreds of people killed, tortured, executed civilians”, and said that “bodies in the streets…a trapped area…even the bodies of the dead are trapped “.

He swore: “The time will come when every Russian will learn the whole truth about who among his fellow citizens killed, who gave orders, who turned a blind eye to the murders”.

Wladimir Klitschko, brother of the mayor of kyiv, also claimed that Bucha was proof of genocide.

Zelenksyy accused Russia of genocide after Bucha massacre
Zelenksyy accused Russia of genocide after Bucha massacre


The brutal attack added to claims that Russia now intends to destroy Ukraine. Previously, Moscow had allegedly wanted to “liberate” its European neighbor from so-called “Nazification” at the top of the country’s government – even though there is no evidence that the Nazis rule Ukraine.

More sanctions from the West?

Ukrainian officials have pleaded for tougher sanctions against Moscow over the “rape, torture and murder” of Russian soldiers.

The country’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said on Monday: “Half measures are no longer enough. I demand from our partners, on behalf of Bucha’s victims and the Ukrainian people, that they take the toughest sanctions against Russia this week.

Macron seemed to agree that the massacre meant that new measures were now needed against Russia.

He told the French press: “I am in favor of a new series of sanctions, particularly on coal and petrol. We have to act.

However, this perspective is not shared across Europe, despite the unified sense of outrage at the treatment of Ukrainians.

Poland is pushing for Europe to get rid of Russian energy quickly, while Germany wants to phase out fuel from Russia over the next few months.

Meanwhile, the UK has called for Russia to be suspended from the UN Human Rights Council for its war crimes.

What does this mean for Russia’s attacks?

The massacre itself may not have changed Russia’s approach, Putin has now redirected his forces away from kyiv due to the strength of the Ukrainian resistance.

The soldiers will now concentrate on the Donbass region, which includes the beleaguered city of Mariupol, as it appears to dominate the southeast.

Access to Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, is now blocked, according to the Ukrainian General Staff, adding: “The enemy is regrouping its troops and concentrating its efforts on preparing an offensive operation in the east of our country”.

At present, two-thirds of Russian troops are thought to be on their way to Belarus or already there for more supplies and reinforcements.

The Ministry of Defense tweeted its latest update and concluded that fighting should “significantly decrease over the course of this week as the remainder of Russian forces withdraw” and regroup for further redeployment in eastern Russia. ‘Ukraine.

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