WARNING — CONFRONTING IMAGES: Hundreds of civilians in a Ukrainian town have reportedly been brutally killed, with some dumped in mass graves, as Russian forces flee areas surrounding the capital.
On Saturday (local time), Ukraine said forces had retaken all areas around the capital Kyiv, but just 37km away in a town called Bucha, the mayor said 300 residents had been massacred by the Russian army.
In the wake of Russian forces fleeing, mass graves were discovered, with Sergey Nikiforov, the spokesperson for Volodymyr Zelensky describing the scenes as an act of "pure brutality".
"It's very hard to understand why this is happening," he told the BBC.
"It's pure brutality. There's no military necessity to do all this."
Civilians found executed with arms and legs tied: Ukraine official
According to reports emanating out of the reclaimed Ukraine territory, the streets in Bucha are littered with dead bodies and burnt-out tanks.
“We found mass graves filled with civilians. We found people with their hands and with their legs tied up and with bullet holes at the back of their heads,"Mr Nikiforov said, according to The Independent.
“They were clearly civilians and they were executed. We found half-burned bodies as if somebody tried to hide the crimes, but actually, they didn’t have enough time to do it properly.”
Photos taken by journalists on the ground show the haunting scenes left behind by Russian invaders.
Many of the bodies have not been identified or collected, AFP reported.
In one mass grave, nearly 60 people were buried, though not all were visible.
Some were zipped into body bags, others were partially buried, with just a limb exposed. One body was seen wrapped in bedsheets.
Ukraine president tells Russia: 'This is your image'
In an address, Mr Zelensky questioned why civilians were seemingly tortured to death and said the atrocities would define how Russia would be perceived around the world for decades to come.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for international war crimes investigators to visit the area to collect evidence and said Kyiv believed the killing of civilians was deliberate.
Russia's defence ministry said all forces had left the town on March 30.
The ministry also denied the killing of civilians in Bucha and claimed the photographic evidence of the dead bodies was "yet another provocation", claiming it was staged by Ukraine.
The rest of the world, meanwhile, has expressed outrage for the scenes in Bucha.
Tough message from Zelensky tonight about discovered atrocities in Ukraine:
“This is how the Russian state will now be perceived. This is your image. Your culture and human appearance perished together with the Ukrainian men and women to whom you came” pic.twitter.com/mpkKPM9myZ
— Dmitri Alperovitch (@DAlperovitch) April 3, 2022
World reacts to shocking images
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken described images of the mass casualties as a "punch in a gut" while speaking on CNN.
"The images from Bucha are unbearable, Putin's uninhibited violence is extinguishing innocent families and knows no boundaries," German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock tweeted.
"Those responsible for these war crimes must be made accountable. We will tighten the sanctions against Russia and will assist Ukraine even more in defending itself."
French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian condemned what he called the "massive abuses" committed by Russian forces.
He added that Paris would work with Ukraine and the International Criminal Court (ICC) to put those responsible on trial.
Australia's foreign minister Marise Payne called the scenes "despicable".
"Shocked to hear of accounts of summary execution, rape, looting & other crimes by Russian troops in Bucha & across Ukraine," she tweeted.
"The targeting & treatment of innocent men & women in this way is despicable. Russia must & will be held accountable for the actions of its forces."
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