© Reuters. Ukrainian soldiers are pictured on their tanks as they drive along the street, amid Russia’s invasion on Ukraine, in Bucha, in Kyiv region, Ukraine April 2, 2022. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
By Simon Gardner
BUCHA, Ukraine (Reuters) – The mayor of a Ukrainian city on the northern outskirts of Kyiv on Sunday showed journalists dead bodies in an area that, he said, Chechen fighters controlled during the month that Russian forces occupied the city.
The mayor, Anatoliy Fedoruk, showed a Reuters team two corpses with white cloth tied around their arms which – the mayor said – was what residents were forced to wear by fighters from Chechnya, a region in southern Russia that has deployed troops to Ukraine to support Russian forces.
One corpse appeared to have his hands bound by the white cloth, and to have been shot in the mouth.
“Any war has some rules of engagement for civilians. The Russians have demonstrated that they were consciously killing civilians,” Fedoruk said.
“They practically got a green light from (Russian President Vladimir) Putin for a safari and they were shooting Ukrainian people.”
Reuters, which was taken to the scene by Ukrainian authorities, was not immediately able to verify the mayor’s allegations.
Russia’s defence ministry in Moscow did not immediately reply to a request for comment when asked on Sunday about the bodies found in Bucha.
The Kremlin has denied war crimes in Ukraine. It says its “special military operation” aims to degrade the Ukrainian armed forces and is targeting military installations rather than carrying out strikes on civilian areas.
Asked about separate war crime allegations on March 1, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with reporters, “We categorically deny this”. He dismissed allegations of Russian strikes on civilian targets and the use of cluster bombs and vacuum bombs as fakes.
Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on March 21 that Russia’s operation was being carried out by a professional and well-armed forces and denied Ukrainian claims that Russian forces had hit any civilian objects.
Bucha lies 37 km (23 miles) northwest of Kyiv city centre.
Ukraine said on Saturday its forces had retaken all areas around Kyiv and that it now had complete control of the capital region for the first time since Feb 24. Russia has pulled back forces that had threatened Kyiv from the north to regroup for battles in eastern Ukraine.
On Saturday, Reuters journalists saw bodies in civilian clothes lying in the streets of Bucha, still unburied, with burned-out wrecks of Russian tanks and armoured vehicles all around.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a Putin ally, sent brigades to Ukraine to help Russian troops when they invaded Ukraine on Feb 24.
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