Britain has released a satellite image that it claims shows bodies strewn along a street in the Ukrainian city of Bucha, in mid-March, in a bid to invalidate Russia’s denial of atrocities.
The Ministry of Defence shared a photo appearing to show the remains of eight people scattered on a street in the commuter city north-west of Kyiv.
Russian troops occupied the city at the time the image was taken.
After invading forces withdrew from Bucha and other regions around the capital last week, the devastation left in their wake shocked the world and drew international condemnation. Bodies were found dumped in mass graves, including one in the grounds of a church, and half-burnt human remains were discovered in a bonfire site.
Roads were found littered with bodies, dressed in civilian clothing with their hands tied behind their backs, suggesting they had been executed.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the evidence emerging from Bucha points to “genocide”, an accusation that the Kremlin has denied. The Russian defence ministry said “not a single civilian” in Bucha faced any unprovoked violent military action and said images of bodies had been “stage-managed by the Kyiv regime for the western media”. The Kyiv government also called on the West to ratchet up sanctions against Moscow.
The UK defence ministry issued an intelligence update on Tuesday evening in a bid to quash Moscow’s denials, which it repeated at a meeting of the UN Security Council.
“Analysis of satellite imagery dated 21 March 2022 shows at least 8 bodies identified lying in a street in Bucha, Kyiv Oblast,” the ministry tweeted. “Bucha was occupied by the Russian armed forces until 31 March 2022.”
The ministry issued a further update on the Ukrainian war on Wednesday morning, saying there was "heavy fighting and Russian air strikes" in the encircled port city of Mariupol.
"The humanitarian situation in the city is worsening," the ministry said. "Most of the 160,000 remaining residents have no light, communication, medicine, heat or water. Russian forces have prevented humanitarian access, likely to pressure defenders to surrender."
Speaking at the UN meeting, Russia’s envoy to the UN Vasily Nebenzya disputed the allegations of atrocities in Bucha, and criticised President Zelenskyy. He repeated baseless allegations of Nazism among Kyiv’s leadership.
On Sunday, as international journalists and human right workers poured into Bucha, Sergey Nikiforov, a spokesman for Mr Zelenskyy, condemned the “pure brutality” of the mass graves.
“We found mass graves filled with civilians,” Mr Nikiforov said. “We found people with their hands and with their legs tied up and with bullet holes at the back of their heads.
“They were clearly civilians and they were executed. We found half-burnt bodies as if somebody tried to hide the crimes, but actually they didn’t have enough time to do it properly.”
The UK and the US are pushing for Russia to be removed from the UN Human Rights Council over the Bucha atrocities.
In an address to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, President Zelenskyy accused Russia of committing the “most terrible war crimes” since the Second World War as he called for trials akin to those held after the defeat of the Nazis.
He said President Vladimir Putin’s forces had created “mass starvation” and shot and raped civilians and called for those responsible to be “brought to justice” in a tribunal similar to the Nuremberg trials.
He warned the world is yet to see the acts committed by the Kremlin’s troops in other regions, which remain under Russian control.
“Today, as a result of Russia’s actions in our country, in Ukraine, the most terrible war crimes we’ve seen since the end of the Second World War are being committed,” he said in the online address.
“Russian troops are deliberately destroying Ukrainian cities to ashes with artillery and air strikes. They are deliberately blocking cities, creating mass starvation. They deliberately shoot columns of civilians on the road trying to escape from the hostilities.
“They even deliberately blow up shelters where civilians hide from air strikes.
“The massacre in our city of Bucha is unfortunately only one of many examples of what the occupiers have been doing on our land for the past 41 days.”