Switzerland calls for urgent probe into alleged atrocities near Kyiv  

A woman walks amid destroyed Russian tanks in Bucha, 25km northwest of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, on April 3, 2022. Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Reports of alleged violations of international humanitarian law in Ukraine must be urgently investigated, say the Swiss authorities. Ukraine has accused Russia of committing war crimes in the town of Bucha, near Kyiv. Moscow denies the accusations.

This content was published on April 4, 2022

In recent days, as Ukrainian forces have re-entered areas close to the capital Kyiv after the Russians retreated, reports have emerged of hundreds of bodies and mass graves in the town of Bucha, northwest of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.

“The images of these atrocities shocked us all, including me. I never imagined that I would see such atrocities in Europe in the 21st century,” President Ignazio Cassis told Swiss public broadcaster SRF on Monday.

Switzerland has joined other countries in calling for the killings to be investigated by the International Criminal Court.

Ukrainian authorities say that the bodies of at least 410 civilians have been found in areas outside the capital after last week’s withdrawal of Russian troops – many with bound hands, close-range gunshot wounds and showing signs of torture.

Bucha’s deputy mayor, Taras Shapravskyi, said 50 of some 300 bodies found in the small town after Russian forces withdrew late last week were the victims of extra-judicial killings carried out by Russian troops.

Cool heads needed

Cassis insists that despite the disturbing footage of bodies and mass graves, politicians and diplomats had to keep “cool heads”.

“The most important thing at this moment to create clarity. Who are the perpetrators? They must be held accountable,” he said.

“It is for a court to determine whether these are war crimes, not politicians.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the killings evidence of genocide. Russia’s Defence Ministry rejected the accusation. It said photos and videos of dead bodies “have been stage-managed by the Kyiv regime for the Western media.” A spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry said the footage of dead civilians in Bucha had been “ordered” by the US as part of a plot to blame Russia.

Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on February 24 in what it called a “special operation” to weaken its southern neighbour’s military capabilities and root out people it called dangerous nationalists.

Ukrainian forces have mounted stiff resistance and the West has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia in an effort to force it to withdraw its troops. After five weeks of fighting, Russia has pulled back forces that had threatened Kyiv from the north to regroup for battles in eastern Ukraine.

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