“This is genocide,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday Images of civilian bodies emerged scattered across the streets of Bucha, northwest of the capital Kyiv, after Russian forces withdrew from the region.
When asked during an appearance on CBS News’ Face the Nation program whether Russia was committing genocide in Ukraine, Zelenskyy replied: “Indeed it is. This is genocide.”
“The annihilation of the whole nation and people. We are citizens of Ukraine. We have more than 100 nationalities. It is about the destruction and extermination of all these nationalities,” he continued.
Ukraine “does not want to submit to the policies of the Russian Federation,” said Zelenskyy, adding that “this is the reason why we are being destroyed and exterminated.”
“This is happening in Europe in the 21st century. So this is the torture of the whole nation,” the President stressed in front of the spectators.
The alleged atrocities in Bucha have provoked international outragewith Western leaders calling for war crimes investigations and new sanctions against Russia.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that the State Department would help document all atrocities committed by the Russian military against Ukrainian civilians. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called the deaths of civilians in Bucha “brutality” and said “I warmly welcome” an investigation by the International Criminal Court that has been launched a war crimes investigation in Ukraine.
Russia’s answer: The Russian Defense Ministry claimed the extensive footage was “fake” and said “not a single local resident suffered from violent actions during the Russian occupation of Bucha”. “In the settlements of the Kyiv region, Russian military personnel delivered and distributed 452 tons of humanitarian aid to civilians,” the statement said.
A separate statement claimed the footage was staged. “Stories about Bucha appeared in several foreign media outlets simultaneously, which looks like a planned media campaign,” the statement said. “Considering that the troops left town on March 30th, where was the footage for four days? Their absence only confirms the fake.”
The Russian government has consistently responded to allegations of civilian casualties by Russian forces with sweeping denials. After the Russian Air Force bombed a maternity hospital on March 9, Russian officials tried to cast doubt on widespread media reports, with a Russian diplomat blaming a bombing victim – a woman who escaped the bombing, bleeding and still pregnant an actor and not a real victim.
CNN could not independently confirm the details of the men’s deaths. CNN had asked the Russian Defense Ministry for comment on allegations of executions of civilians in the Kyiv region and other parts of Ukraine.
CNN’s Nathan Hodge, Chandelis Duster, and Jeremy Herb contributed to this post.