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Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Russia of committing genocide and trying to wipe out a “whole nation”, after the discovery of mass graves and execution sites near the capital, Kyiv.
“This is genocide. The elimination of the whole nation and the people,” Mr Zelenskyy told CBS.
“We are the citizens of Ukraine. We have more than 100 nationalities. This is about the destruction and extermination of all these nationalities,” he said.
The president’s interview was broadcast on Sunday after revelations of civilian bodies littering the streets of the town of Bucha, near Kyiv. The city’s mayor, Anatoly Fedoruk, said 280 bodies were buried in a mass grave there.
“We are citizens of Ukraine and we don’t want to be subdued to the policy of Russian Federation. This is the reason we are being destroyed and exterminated,” Mr Zelenskyy said.
“This is happening in the Europe of the 21st century. So this is the torture of the whole nation.”
Speaking to CNN, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the evidence of atrocities in Bucha and said the US was documenting possible war crimes in Ukraine.
"You can’t help but see these images as a punch to the gut,” said Mr Blinken.
The killings were the “reality of what’s going on every single day” that Russia remains in Ukraine, said Mr Blinken, who will travel to Brussels, in Belgium, from Tuesday to Thursday for a meeting of Nato foreign ministers.
Russia has suffered a “strategic defeat” in Ukraine and sanctions are taking a “big bite” out of its economy, he said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed Ukrainian claims of war crimes. He said the evidence of atrocities purportedly included a “lot of fakes and staged shots”.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, saying operations were vital to halt Nato’s expansion eastwards.