Zelenskyy says Russian actions in Ukraine make talks harder

Ukraine president says negotiations with Russia would be harder after reports of atrocities by its forces in Bucha.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gestures as he is surrounded by Ukrainian servicemen while Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in Bucha, outside Kyiv, Ukraine [Marko Djurica/Reuters]

Negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv have become harder as evidence of alleged atrocities committed by Russian forces in Ukraine has been discovered, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said.

Speaking on Monday from the town of Bucha in the Kyiv region, where a hastily dug mass grave and bound bodies shot at close range were found in territory retaken from Russian troops, Zelenskyy denounced “war crimes” tantamount to “genocide”.

“It’s very difficult to talk when you see what they’ve done here,” said Zelenskyy, wearing body armour while flanked by military personnel.

“The longer the Russian Federation drags out the meeting process, the worse it is for them and for this situation and for this war.”

Moscow has denied allegations that Russian forces killed civilians in Bucha.

Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Bucha, said Zelenskyy stressed that despite the difficulties, Ukraine must “negotiate … because he reminded the world that this war has to be brought to an end as soon as possible, asking how can this be happening in the 21st century, here in Europe”.

“He also reminded the West about what he sees as their obligation, saying, ‘Look we need more sanctions against Russia. When will European countries stop importing Russian gas to put more pressure on Russia?’ And also inviting the international community to see for themselves what they say the Russians have carried out in Bucha,” McBride said.

Moscow has faced accusations of war crimes since Saturday, when images of towns from which Russian forces had withdrawn near Kyiv revealed streets strewn with corpses of what appeared to be civilians, some of whom had seemingly been killed deliberately at close range.

The scale of the killings is still being pieced together. On Sunday, Ukrainian prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova said 410 civilian bodies had been recovered in the wider Kyiv region after Russian troops pulled back.

Russia has claimed that some of the images of dead civilians in Bucha being aired by global news stations were staged.

Zelenskyy said: “We know of thousands of people killed and tortured, with severed limbs, raped women and murdered children.”

Al Jazeera aired images of bodies encased in black plastic bags in one of several burial sites across the town, as correspondent Imran Khan reported that morgues were completely full.

Toby Cadman, an international human rights lawyer, told Al Jazeera that it was imperative to establish the parties behind those killings and said evidence was still being documented.

He also said several routes could be used to ensure the culprits of potential crimes were identified – a process that could involve the Ukrainian prosecutor general, a separate tribunal and a commission of inquiry.

Moscow has denied targeting civilians since its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, which it calls a “special military operation” aimed at demilitarising and “denazifying” Ukraine. Kyiv and its western allies have called the invasion a war of aggression.

The United States and Europe have already slapped harsh economic sanctions on Moscow, but the emerging evidence of atrocities allegedly carried out by Russian forces in Ukraine has spurred European leaders to call for tougher measures, including on its energy exports.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies