The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor has branded Ukraine a “crime scene” as he visited the town of Bucha, where hundreds of civilians are believed to have been slaughtered by Russian forces.
The discovery of slain civilians in Bucha after the Russian withdrawal earlier this month provoked a global outcry. Ukrainian soldiers entering the town, which lies 15 miles west of Kyiv, found evidence of mass graves and bodies stuffed in bags.
“We have to pierce the fog of war to get to the truth. That requires independent, impartial investigation,” he said.
“We have to keep an open mind and we have to follow the evidence. The law needs to be mobilised and sent into battle to protect civilians.”
Meanwhile, investigators from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said they had uncovered “clear patterns of international humanitarian law violations”, including evidence that civilians had been targeted.
In a report released on Wednesday, they highlighted attacks in the besieged port city of Mariupol, where a maternity hospital and a theatre were targeted last month.
The report said that both attacks were “most likely an egregious violation of international humanitarian law and those who ordered or executed it committed a war crime”.
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Earlier this week, a team of forensic analysts arrived from France to help Ukrainian authorities establish what happened in the town.about:blank
French authorities said the team, which includes experts on ballistics, explosives, and rapid DNA testing, would also be able to contribute what they find to an ICC investigation.
“They can see everything, they can see the situation here: real graves, real dead bodies, real bomb attacks. That’s why for us this moment is very important.”
Both prime minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden have called for Mr Putin to face a war crimes trial at The Hague over the “despicable” attacks on civilians allegedly committed by Russian forces.
“It is inevitable that the Russian troops will be held responsible. We will drag everyone to a tribunal, and not only for what was done in Bucha,” Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky said in an address late on Wednesday.
Elsewhere, Ukrainian troops are bracing for a heavy Russian offensive in the Donbas region. Last month, the Kremlin claimed his forces would retreat from areas around the capital to focus on the industrial region in the east.