Ukraine war: Satellite photos appear to contradict Russian denials over Bucha atrocities

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This handout satellite image released by Maxar Technologies on April 4, 2022 shows a view of Yablonska Street in Bucha, Ukraine, on March 31, 2022.

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SATELLITE IMAGE ©2022 MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES / AFP

Russia’s war in Ukraine is taking on a new dimension with growing evidence of human rights atrocities by Vladimir Putin’s troops, accused of killing civilians in cold blood as they retreated from the Kyiv region.

Moves are afoot to investigate war crimes but there are fears that similar massacres could occur, given Russia’s failure to gain control of the country or even any key cities following its invasion on February 24.

Moscow is now concentrating its offensive on eastern and southern Ukraine. Thousands have been killed so far and Russian bombardments have caused widespread devastation. Millions have fled their homes, creating Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II.

The war has deepened the rupture between Russia and the West, which is planning more economic sanctions against Moscow.

Watch our TV coverage in the video player above and follow the latest updates in our live blog below:

07:55

Tuesday’s key points:

    Satellite photographs released on Monday appear to rebut Russian assertions that dead bodies in civilian clothing found in Bucha had appeared there after Russian forces retreated from the devastated Ukrainian town. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who visited Bucha on Monday, will speak to the UN Security Council for the first time on Tuesday at a meeting certain to focus on what appear to be deliberate killings of civilians by Russian troops.Moscow has claimed the scenes were faked and says it will present evidence to the UN Security Council.Zelenskyy’s spokesperson told Euronews there are fears that similar massacres could occur elsewhere as Russian troops retreat towards Belarus. Ukraine’s prosecutor-general has said a “similar humanitarian situation” to Bucha exists in other areas where Russian forces recently left, such as around the northern cities of Sumy and Chernihiv.EU leaders Ursula von der Leyen and Josep Borrell will visit Kyiv this week to meet Zelenskyy, the Commission president’s spokesman says.The EU, the UK and the US have promised further sanctions against Moscow in the wake of mounting evidence of Russian atrocities. President Biden branded Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” on Monday and called for a “war crimes trial”.Ukraine’s latest daily military report suggests Russian forces are preparing for a major attack in eastern Ukraine. The city of Kramatorsk was bombarded overnight.Germany, France and Lithuania all took action on Monday to expel Russian diplomats, followed on Tuesday by Denmark and Italy.Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said seven humanitarian corridors were to open on Tuesday from Mariupol and Berdyansk, addng that more than 1,550 civilians were evacuated from Mariupol on Monday.

07:10

Satellite photos undermine Russian denials of atrocities

Satellite images released by Maxar Technologies on April 4, 2022 show views of streets in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv in Ukraine.

The photos taken on March 31 seem to show bodies lying in the streets, before Russian forces retreated from the devastated Ukrainian town.

They give the lie to Russian assertions that dead bodies in civilian clothing found in Bucha had appeared there afterwards.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the images contained “signs of video forgery and various fakes”. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed the scenes outside Kyiv as a “stage-managed anti-Russian provocation,” prompting one Ukrainian MP to accuse him of lying.

The Russian government and pro-Kremlin media have claimed that Russian troops left Bucha on March 30, and that the bodies were first documented only on April 3.

But on April 1, Russian media outlet Zvezda TV reported that Russian marines were still carrying out operations in areas including Bucha. The Irpin-Bucha-Hostomel Telegram channel published video showing bodies in the streets, also on April 1. The same day, a Kyiv regional authority report listed the town as among the most dangerous areas due to the presence of Russian forces. The BBC reported on April 1 that at least 20 bodies were seen lying in the street as Ukrainian military entered the town. A Ukrainian military report on March 31 said Bucha was still under Russian control. 

Independent journalists have seen, filmed and photographed the bodies found in Bucha and elsewhere, some in areas occupied by Russian forces only hours before. The investigative site Bellingcat and the US think tank the Atlantic Council have published detailed fact-checks contesting the Russian claims.

On Monday Associated Press journalists in Bucha counted dozens of corpses in civilian clothes and apparently without weapons, many shot at close range, and some with their hands bound or their flesh burned.

(with AFP, AP)

This handout satellite image released by Maxar Technologies on April 4, 2022 shows a view of Yablonska Street in Bucha, Ukraine, on March 31, 2022.This handout satellite image released by Maxar Technologies on April 4, 2022 shows destroyed homes and vehicles on Vokzalna Street in Bucha, Ukraine, on March 31, 2022.13:13

Japan’s foreign minister brings 20 Ukrainians on official plane

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi returned to Tokyo on Tuesday with 20 Ukrainians on board his official plane. 

The group fled their homeland after the Russian invasion, and had contacted Japanese embassies in Ukraine and Poland looking for help, but had difficulties arranging their own transportation to Japan. 

The Ukrainians will now go to their onward destinations — some to towns where their relatives are already living, while others will go to government facilities.

Foreign Minister Hayashi has been on a visit to Poland where he visited Ukrainian refugees and held talks with Polish officials on how Japan can provide support. 

“As I observed the severe situation faced by Ukrainians who were forced to flee their country because of the Russian invasion, I have renewed my resolve that Japan should cooperate with international society and provide the utmost assistance so they can return to ordinary lives as soon as possible” Hayashi told reporters.

Japan has an extremely strict refugee policy and has been reluctant to fully accept migrant workers, making its offer to accept Ukrainians unusual. However, the government has carefully called them evacuees and it is still unclear if the Ukrainian situation will change its immigration policy.

Tokyo expects the 20 evacuees will stay in Japan for at least six months, and will provide further support if needed, said Deputy Justice Minister Jun Tsushima, who was traveling with Hayashi.

Tokyo has previously accepted about 300 other Ukrainians, all relatives of about 2,000 Ukrainian residents in Japan who arrived on their own since the Russian invasion began.

Foreign Ministry officials have said most Ukrainian war-displaced have ties to Europe and they hope to return when the situation allows, indicating Japan is not treating them as refugees seeking permanent residency and protection.

(AP)

13:04

UN: Everything points to Ukrainian civilians deliberately targeted 

The images emerging from the Ukrainian town of Bucha, where dozens of bodies were discovered after the withdrawal of Russian forces “point to deliberately targeted civilians” according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

“All signs point to the fact that the victims were deliberately targeted and killed directly. And this evidence is very disturbing,” said spokesperson Elizabeth Throssell on Tuesday during a regular UN press briefing in Geneva.

Sh stressed that international humanitarian law prohibits deliberate attacks on civilians, which amount to a war crime.

“We have to investigate, but if we can understand that a building, for example, is hit in a military context, it is difficult to imagine what would be the military context of an individual lying in the street with a bullet in the head or ‘to have their bodies burned,’ she said.

The High Commission doesn’t currently have any staff on the ground in Bucha.

Ukraine accuses Russian soldiers of having massacred civilians, something which Moscow categorically denies, and says Ukrainian authorities of staging the scene.

(AFP)

11:27

Putin ally has yacht seized in Mallorca

Billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, an oligarch with close ties to Vladimir Putin, has had his yacht seized in Spain as part of sanctions imposed following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

On Monday Euronews reported that US federal agents and Spain’s Civil Guard had searched the vessel.

Read the full updated story here:

Putin ally Vekselberg has luxury yacht seized in Spain, say police

The 78-metre yacht, called Tango, is thought to be worth €109 million.

11:10

EU’s Von der Leyen and Borrell to visit Kyiv this week to meet Zelenskyy

The European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell will visit Kyiv to meet the Ukrainian president this week, von der Leyen’s spokesman has said on Twitter.

11:06

10:39

Russian murders of civilians ‘may be much higher’ — Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he will address the UN Security Council on Tuesday and has predicted even worse discoveries of the mass killing of civilians by Russian troops.

Tuesday’s Security Council session is to consider Ukrainian allegations of the murder of civilians by Russian soldiers in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, following the discovery of hundreds of bodies, some bound and shot at close range.

The Ukrainian leader has already spoken by video link to more than a dozen assemblies — including the US Congress, the British parliament and the European Parliament.

“I would like to emphasise that we are interested in the most complete, transparent investigation, the results of which will be known and explained to the entire international community,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address in the early hours on Tuesday.

In Bucha, where mass graves and bodies were found after Ukraine took the town back from Russian forces, at least 300 civilians had been killed, Zelenskyy said.

“And this is only one town: one of many Ukrainian communities which the Russian forces managed to capture,” he said. “Now, there is information that in Borodyanka and some other liberated Ukrainian towns, the number of casualties of the occupiers may be even much higher.”

He called for “thousands of journalists” to “let the world see what Russia has done” in the Chernihiv and Sumy regions further north and east, as well as around Kyiv.

He said Russian forces did not conceal what happened in Bucha but could well do so in other places they had occupied.

(with Reuters)

10:28

Denmark to expel 15 Russian diplomats

Denmark will expel 15 Russian diplomats for spying, Denmark’s foreign minister announced on Tuesday, a day after Russian diplomats were expelled from France and Germany for similar reasons.

“We have established that the 15 expelled intelligence agents carried out espionage activities on Danish soil,” Jeppe Kofod told reporters, saying he wanted to “send a clear signal to Russia: espionage on Danish soil is unacceptable”.

(AFP)

10:25

Seven humanitarian corridors open on Tuesday — Ukraine deputy PM

Seven humanitarian corridors will be open on Tuesday, including from the besieged port city of Mariupol and the Russian-controlled Berdyansk, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on the messaging app Telegram.

According to Vereshchuk’s post, residents of Mariupol and Berdyansk will be able to leave to Zaporizhzhia on their own transport. Corridors will also be open from the city of Tokmak in the Zaporizhzhia region and cities of Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, Popasna and Hirske in the Luhansk region.

Vereshchuk said in the same post that the Russian troops “don’t allow anyone to enter Mariupol,” and that the Russians “blocked the representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross” in the settlement of Manhush just west of Mariupol.

Vereshchuk said that, after negotiations, the Red Cross representatives “were released at night and sent to Zaporizhzhia.” (see earlier post)

It was not immediately clear from Vereshchuk’s statement whether Russia has agreed to halt the fighting along the announced corridors. Some of the Ukrainian efforts to evacuate civilians via humanitarian corridors had previously failed as fighting along them continued even despite agreements with Russia.

Vereshchuk said more than 1,550 civilians were evacuated from Mariupol on Monday.

(AP)

For a summary of Monday’s developments, click here.

Additional sources • Reuters

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