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Germany's Scholz vows response over Bucha deaths

April 3, 2022

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says the West will impose new sanctions on Russia in the next few days. The discovery of hundreds of bodies in a town outside of Kyiv drew horror around the world.

Soldiers walk past a destroyed Russian tank and armored vehicles in Bucha, Ukraine
The mayor of Bucha said at least 280 people were buried in mass gravesImage: Zohra Bensemra/REUTERS
  • Germany vows more Western sanctions on Russia after civilian killings
  • Ukraine's foreign minister calls massacre in Bucha 'deliberate'
  • Germany, France, US, NATO condemn civilian deaths in Bucha
  • Kyiv says a dozen regional politicians detained by Russia
  • A Red Cross evacuation mission hopes to reach Mariupol later on Sunday

This article was last updated at 21:47 GMT/UTC.

This live updates article has been closed. For the most recent developments on the war in Ukraine, please click here.

Human Rights Watch says killings in Bucha could constitute war crimes

A leading rights group, Human Rights Watch, said Russian forces had committed atrocities in several Ukrainian cities. 

"It's quite clear that there have been war crimes committed against civilians, and the task of investigators will be to decide how many and on what kind of scale they occurred, and ultimately who's responsible," Aisling Reidy, a senior legal adviser at Human Rights told DW.

She said the killing of civilians in Bucha would likely constitute war crimes.

"[In Bucha itself] there's certainly war crimes, potential crimes against humanity, where we're seeing civilians killed, clearly killed in a summary execution format," Reidy said. 

However, she said it was "too early" to label atrocities in Ukraine as "genocide," the term used by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during an interview with US channel CBS on Sunday.

UK says Mariupol putting up 'staunch resistance' despite 'indiscriminate strikes'

The UK's Ministry of Defense said the besieged port city of Mariupol continues to be hit by "intense, indiscriminate strikes" but it added Ukrainian forces "maintain a staunch resistance."

In an intelligence update, the ministry said Mariupol was almost certainly a key objective of the Russian invasion as it would secure a land corridor from Russia the occupied peninsula of Crimea.

The city on the Sea of Azov has seen some of the war's heaviest bombardments and remaines cut off.

About 100,000 civilians are believed to be trapped there with little or no food, water, fuel and medicine.

Russia asks UN Security Council to discuss Bucha 'provocation'

Russia requested a meeting of the UN Security Council on Monday to discuss what Moscow called a "provocation by Ukrainian radicals" in the town of Bucha.

On Saturday, Ukrainian troops recaptured the town near Kyiv, finding bodies of civilians in the streets and in mass graves whom locals said had been killed by Russians without provocation.

Some had been bound and apparently executed.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of committing genocide.

Russia described photos and videos from the town as a "staged performance," despite the first-hand verifications of the killings by journalists from several international outlets.

Ukrainian politicians accuse Russian troops of sexual violence

Russian troops have been accused of targeting Ukrainian women with sexual violence. Ukrainian MP Olexiy Goncharenko said that the bodies of naked women had been discovered on a road not far from Kyiv.

Goncharenko said that after assaulting the women, Russian troops had tried burning their bodies.

Russia says it has hit targets in Kyiv and Mykolaiv

Russia's Defense Ministry said it has carried out a number of airstrikes on Ukrainian military facilities and fuel depots in the capital Kyiv, and Mykolaiv in the south.

Defense Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said Sunday that an air control center had been targeted and destroyed in Vasylkiv near the capital.

The mayor of Mykolaiv had earlier reported that there had been several rocket attacks.

Ukraine says over 400 dead civilians found near Kyiv

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said on Facebook that 410 bodies of dead civilians have been recovered near Kyiv following Russia's withdrawal from the area. 

Forensic experts are on the ground to examine the bodies and gather information. 

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed shock at the discoveries made in the town of Bucha and called for an independent investigation in a post on Twitter.

"I am deeply shocked by the images of civilians killed in Bucha, Ukraine. It is essential that an independent investigation leads to effective accountability," Guterres said in his post. 

Over half a million people have returned to Ukraine — Interior Ministry

Ukraine's Interior Ministry has reported that over 500,000 people have returned to the the country since Russia launched its invasion on February 24.

"During the past week, 144,000 people left Ukraine and 88,000 arrived. In total... around 537,000 of our compatriots have returned to Ukraine," the ministry said with figures from the national border service.

The UNHCR said on Saturday that well over 4 million Ukrainians had fled the country since the invasion began.

UK's Johnson condemns 'despicable' killings of Ukrainian civilians

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has denounced the discovery of hundreds of bodies shortly after the withdrawal of Russian troops from towns near Kyiv.

"Russia's despicable attacks against innocent civilians in Irpin and Bucha are yet more evidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his army are committing war crimes in Ukraine," Johnson said in a statement.

The UK prime minister promised to do everything in his power to "starve Putin's war machine," and vowed that London would increase its financial support for an International Criminal Court investigation into atrocities committed in Ukraine.

He joined German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in vowing stepped by sanctions against Russia.

Johnson also said London would increase arms supplies and humanitarian aid to Kyiv.

Scholz: More sanctions on Russia in coming days

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Western allies would agree on further sanctions on Russia in the coming days over its invasion of Ukraine and the "atrocities" committed by Russian troops in a town near Kyiv.

Russian President Vladimir "Putin and his supporters will feel the consequences" of their actions, he said in a statement to reporters in the chancellery.

"And we will continue to make weapons available to Ukraine so the country can defend itself against the Russian invasion."

On Saturday, hundreds of bodies of civilians were found in the town of Bucha, hours after Russian soldiers withdrew from the area.

Russia's Defense Ministry has denied killing civilians, saying that photos and videos of corpses strewn across the streets were "another production of the Kyiv regime for the Western media."

"During the time this settlement was under the control of Russian armed forces, not a single local resident suffered from any violent actions," the ministry said in a statement.

Berlin rejects Ukraine's plea for infantry vehicles

Ukraine will not receive any German Marder infantry vehicles, which it has requested from Berlin, Die Welt has reported.

The newspaper said Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht had rejected the demand.

Citing the Defense Ministry, the paper said that Germany's armored personnel carriers were bound by NATO obligations.

Any decision on "disengagement" would therefore have to be decided within the framework of the alliance.

Kyiv requested the transfer of 100 Marder infantry vehicles and other heavy weapons last week.

A row of Marder infantry vehicles
Ukraine last week put in a request for 100 Marder infantry vehicles from GermanyImage: Armin Weigel/dpa/picture alliance

Lambrecht: EU must discuss ban on Russian gas

German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht has called on the European Union to discuss a ban on Russian gas imports after reports emerged of Russian forces committing atrocities near Kyiv.

"Such crimes must not remain without a response," she told public broadcaster ARD's Report from Berlin, in reference to the reported discovery of mass graves in the town of Bucha.

Lambrecht said a joint response was the EU's "strength." Rather than "individual countries that pushed ahead, we agreed with each other on what is sustainable."

The minister also promised more military deliveries to Ukraine and said she was skeptical as to whether Moscow would uphold any future peace deal.

"We have seen how people lied, how we were deceived, how promises and commitments were not kept. And that's why I'm very hesitant, very skeptical," she said.

Despite her call for a review of gas imports, Germany remains heavily reliant on energy supplies from Russia. 

Berlin said last week that the earliest it could wean itself of Russian natural gas is mid-2024.

Fresh blast near Russian city of Belgorod

A fresh explosion has been reported near the southern Russian city of Belgorod, where two days ago Moscw said Ukraine carried out air strikes on an oil depot.

"There was a bang, debris fell to the ground," the head of the Yakovlevsky district administration, Oleg Medvedev, wrote on a Telegram news channel on Sunday.

The cause of the new blast was not immediately clear.

Medvedev said noone was killed or injured and that the debris would be taken away and examined.

Reuters news agency cited two witnesses as saying that two new blasts had been heard.

One witness said they were so powerful that they rattled the windows of her home in Belgorod.

The city lies 35 kilometers (22 miles) from the joint border.

Firefighters attempt to put out the blaze at the Belgorod fuel depot in Russia
A blaze broke out Friday at a fuel depot in Belgorod, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Russia's border with UkraineImage: AFP

Zelenskyy: Russia attempting to eliminate Ukraine through 'genocide'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russia has committed "genocide" in his country and was attempting to eliminate the "whole nation."

His comments to CBS program Face the Nation follow the discovery of mass graves in the town of Bucha, near Kyiv.

Footage also emerged from the town showing what a Ukrainian official said were 280 civilians executed by Russian soldiers.

"We are citizens of Ukraine and we don't want to be subdued to the policy of the Russian Federation. This is the reason we are being destroyed and exterminated," Zelensky said, according to a transcript from the network.

"And this is happening in the Europe of the 21st century. So this is the torture of the whole nation," he added.

Russia's Defense Minister denied that its forces had killed civilians in Bucha, saying that the footage and photos were "yet another provocation."

The ministry added that all Russian military units had left the town on March 30.

Macron condemns Russia's 'crimes' in Bucha

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter that the images emerging from the town of Bucha outside Kyiv of dead civilians are "unbearable."

"On the streets, hundreds of civilians cowardly murdered," he wrote, in reference to reports from the Ukrainian town from which Russian forces recently withdrew.

"The Russian authorities will have to answer for these crimes," Macron added. 

US to give Moldova $50 million in aid

The US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced during a visit to the capital, Chisinau, that the US would donate $50 million (€45.25 million) in aid to help Moldova cope with the spillover effects of the war in Ukraine.

Thomas-Greenfield said the funding would go towards programs, training and equipment for border management as well as efforts to counter human trafficking, promote accountability and transparency in the justice system and combat corruption and cybercrime.

The money is in addition to the $30 million the US announced last month for refugee relief over the next six months. 

The UN says almost 400,000 Ukrainian refugees have fled their country through Moldova.

Ukraine says 11 regional politicians in Russian captivity

Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said 11 regional Ukrainian politicians are currently being held in Russian captivity. She added that the officials came from the Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mykolayiv and Donetsk regions.

Vereshchuk said negotiations for a prisoner exchange were underway.

Ukrainian officials also said the mayor of the village of Motyshyn, Olha Suchenko, had been found dead in the greater Kyiv area along with her husband.

NATO chief Stoltenberg calls Bucha atrocities 'horrific'

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called the death of civilians in Bucha, near Kyiv, horrific.

Stoltenberg told CNN, "It is a brutality against civilians we haven't seen in Europe for decades, and it's horrific and it's absolutely unacceptable."

Russian forces left dead civilians on the streets when they retreated.

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill calls for country to be defended

Patriarch Kirill, the head of Russia's Orthodox Church held a service Sunday for Russian soldiers and called for them to defend their country "as only Russia can."

At the ostentatious Main Cathedral of the Armed Forces in Kubinka outside Moscow, Patriarch Kirill said Russia was "peace-loving" and had suffered from war.

A close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Patriarch Kirill added, "We absolutely do not strive for war or to do anything that could harm others."

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill held a service for the Russian soldiers fighting in UkraineImage: Sergei Karpukhin/TASS/picture alliance

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz accuses Russia of 'crimes'

In a statement, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said, "I demand that international organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross be given access to these areas in order to independently document the atrocities."

He added, "These crimes committed by the Russian military must be relentlessly investigated."

Of Bucha, Scholz said the footage of dead civilians in the streets was "terrible and horrifying."

He reiterated his for a cease-fire and a cessation of fighting.

Blinken calls Bucha images 'punch in the gut'

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN the images of Ukrainian civilians bound and dead on the streets of the town of Bucha are a "punch in the gut."

He added that economic sanctions "are having a big bite now."

While it is too early to say whether Russian troops repositioning from Kyiv signals a withdrawal or a regrouping, Blinken said he believes Russia suffered a "strategic defeat" in Ukraine.

French foreign minister condemns Russia's 'massive abuses'

France's foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian condemned the Russian army's "massive abuses" in Ukraine.

In a statement, he said such abuses constitute war crimes. 

Le Drian added that France would work with Ukraine and the International Criminal Court (ICC) towards the pursuit of justice for the perpetrators of such crimes. 

Greek foreign minister lands in Odesa

Nikos Dendias, the foreign minister of Greece, arrived in Odesa Sunday as part of a humanitarian mission to the Ukrainian port city.

Dendias also hopes to reopen the Greek consulate in the city.

Missiles hit Odesa in the early hours Sunday.

Ukraine's foreign minister: Bucha 'massacre was deliberate'

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine's foreign minister, said on Twitter that the massacre of Ukrainian civilians in Bucha was "deliberate."

He called for "devastating" new sanctions against Moscow, including an embargo on Russian energy, the closure of ports to Russian goods and trade, and disconnecting all Russian banks from the international banking system known as SWIFT.

Ukraine's Minister of Foreign Affairs quoted Kuleba on Twitter, "We are still gathering and looking for bodies, but the number has already gone into the hundreds. Dead bodies lie on the streets." 

Pope Francis condemns 'sacrilegious war'

Pope Francis called Russia's invasion of Ukraine 'sacrilegious' during an open-air mass in Malta Sunday before he visited a migrant center.

His comments come following international outrage and condemnation for atrocities discovered after Russian forces withdrew in retreat from the Kyiv suburb of Bucha.

"Let us pray for peace, thinking of the humanitarian tragedy of tormented Ukraine, still under the bombardments of this sacrilegious war," Pope Francis told 12,000 in Floriana, outside the Maltese capital of Valletta.

German Foreign Minister accuses Russia of 'war crimes' in Bucha

Annalena Baerbock, Germany's foreign minister, accuses Russia of "war crimes" over dead civilians bound and dead left on the streets following Russia's withdrawal from the Kyiv suburb of Bucha.

Baerbock tweeted the images are "unbearable" and said, "Putin's rampant violence is wiping out innocent families and knows no bounds." 

She added, "Those responsible for these war crimes must be held accountable."

Germany's response would be to "tighten sanctions" and "support #Ukraine even more in their defense."

EU Council President accuses Russia of massacre in Bucha

Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, blamed Russia for "atrocities" committed in Bucha on the outskirts of Kyiv.

He tweeted saying he was "shocked by haunting images." 

Numerous civilians were found dead on the streets following the Russian army's retreat from the town. Ukrainian authorities say 280 people have also been buried in mass graves.

Nearly 4.2 million Ukrainian refugees 

The UN's refugee agency said nearly 4.2 million people had fled Ukraine in just over five weeks since the war began. In just the last day, the number had increased by nearly 40,000.

Of those fleeing Ukraine, 90% are women and children as smen aged 18 to 60 are prohibited from leaving because they are needed by the Ukrainian military to repel the Russian invasion.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that just over 200,00 foreign nationals living, working and studying in Ukraine also departed.

The IOM also estimates that nearly 6.5 million are internally displaced within Ukraine.

The result is that a quarter of Ukraine's total population is displaced due to the conflict. 

Russia will only export food to 'friendly countries'

Russian state-run RIA news agency reports Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy secretary of the country's Security Council who served a term as Russian president while Russian President Vladimir Putin was prime minister, said Russia will only export food and crops to "friendly countries."

He added that payment must be handled in rubles or their national currencies.

Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravicius killed in Mariupol

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense's information agency announced Sunday that Lithuanian film director Mantas Kvedaravicius, 45, died, "While trying to leave Mariupol, Russian occupiers killed Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravicius." 

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said Sunday, "We lost a creator well known in Lithuania and in the whole world, who until the very last moment, in spite of the danger, worked in Russia-occupied Ukraine."

Kvedaravicius was best known for his documentary "Mariupolis" which premiered at the 2016 Berlin international film festival Berlinale.

Lithuania's Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted Kvedaravicius "told the story of a besieged city with a strong will to live," and called it a big loss for Lithuania in the world. 

Not enough peace talks progress for leaders' meeting: Russian negotiator

In seeming response to reports suggesting that Russia had agreed "verbally" to key Ukrainian positions at peace talks, Russia's chief negotiator has stressed that Moscow is sticking to its demands.

 "The draft agreement is not ready for submission to a meeting at the top," Russian chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said on Telegram. "I repeat again and again: Russia's position on Crimea and Donbas remains UNCHANGED."

Odesa 'attacked from the air': city council

Ukraine's strategic Black Sea port city of Odesa was hit by explosions early on Sunday, with officials saying missiles had been fired at it.

"Odesa was attacked from the air. Some missiles were shot down by air defense,'' the city council said in a brief statement on the Telegram messaging app. It said fires were reported in some areas but gave no details on what the attacks may have targeted.

However, regional administration spokesperson Sergey Bratchuk told Ukraine's public broadcaster that one of the city's "critical infrastructure facilities" was hit.

The attack on the city, where Ukraine's navy is headquartered, comes as Russian forces appear to be withdrawing from the north of the country.

Soldiers standing behind sandbags in front of the National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet in Odesa
Odesa has been preparing for possible Russian attacksImage: Petros Giannakouris/AP Photo/picture alliance

Mines in Black Sea 'pose a serious risk': UK intelligence report

In an intelligence update, the British Ministry of Defence has said that "reported mines within the Black Sea pose a serious risk to maritime activity."

It said that though it was still unclear where the mines came from, "their presence is almost certainly due to Russian naval activity in the area," adding that it showed the risks posed by the Russian invasion to "neutral and civilian interests."

The update also said Russia was continuing to prevent Ukraine from receiving supplies from the sea by blockading the coast in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov.

Germany faces mounting criticism over Ukraine response

Ukrainian and Polish officials sharply criticized the German government in interviews published on Sunday, accusing Berlin of being too close with Moscow.

Poland's deputy prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said that Warsaw "is not pleased with Germany's role in Europe."

"Over the years, the German government did not want to see what Russia was doing under the leadership of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and we see the result today," Kaczynski told German newspaper Die Welt.

Ukraine's Ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, took aim at German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. He accused the longtime politician of building a "web of contacts with Russia for decades."

"For Steinmeier, the relationship with Russia was and remains something fundamental — even sacred. No matter what happens, even the [Russian] invasion doesn't play a big role," Melnyk told the Tagesspiegel newspaper.

He also said that the German government hasn't been open in sharing its plans about potential weapons deliveries. The ambassador said he first heard about Berlin's plan to supply up to €308 million in weapons deliveries from reading it in the news.

"The communication could be a lot better," he said.

Retreat reveals mass graves and bodies in the streets

As Ukrainian forces slowly moved to retake areas around Kyiv that were besieged and occupied by Russian troops, they uncovered shocking scenes.

In Bucha, a town just outside the capital, numerous bodies lined the streets of the town — with Ukrainian civilians and Russian soldiers among the dead.

Journalists with the French news agency AFP counted at least 20 bodies in just one street. Reporters with the Associated Press said the bodies of at least six civilians were sprawled along a road and in a front yard.

"Those people were just walking and they shot them without any reason," a Bucha resident told AP, saying the departing Russian troops were behind the indiscriminate killings.

Bucha's Mayor Anatoly Fedoruk said that at least 280 other bodies had been buried in mass graves elsewhere in the town.

Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko told Bild, "What happened in Bucha and other suburbs of Kyiv can only be described as genocide, cruel war crimes for which Putin is responsible." He added, "The oil and gas embargo must come immediately."

The images have sparked outrage among officials in Ukraine and circulated widely on social media.

The UN on Sunday said serious questions had been raised over the possibility of war crimes having been committed and stressed the importance of preserving evidence.

"What is known to date clearly raises serious and disturbing questions about possible war crimes and grave violations of international humanitarian law," the UN rights office said.

A man walks with bags of food in the suburb of Bucha in Ukraine
The departure of Russian troops from Bucha and other areas has revealed the extent of damage to the occupied areasImage: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP

Round-up of events in Ukraine war on Saturday

Ukraine's military said it regained control of the entire Kyiv region on Saturday, with Russian troops pulling out of embattled areas around the capital.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned, however, that the retreat of Russian forces is creating a "catastrophic" situation for those stuck in the areas left behind.

Images from heavily damaged towns outside of Kyiv show land mines littering the roads and bodies dressed in civilian clothes lying in the streets.

Prominent Ukrainian photojournalist Maks Levin who went missing last month was found dead in a village north of Kyiv, making him the sixth journalist so far to be killed in the war.

Ukraine, along with the United Kingdom and other allies, warned that Russia's withdrawal from Kyiv does not signal a reprieve from fighting. They cited evidence showing Moscow moving to strengthen its troops in eastern Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Baltic states sought to mount economic pressure on Russia by saying they'd stopped all imports of Russian gas on Saturday.

lo,ar, rs/jcg, sms (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)