After the massacre in the Kiev suburb of Bucha, Russia must prepare for tightening of Western sanctions. “We will decide on further measures in the circle of allies in the next few days,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday evening. Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht had previously brought a gas embargo into play. While Ukraine reported 410 bodies in the capital region, Moscow denied any responsibility.

“The murder of civilians is a war crime. We must relentlessly investigate these crimes by the Russian armed forces,” said Scholz. “Putin and his supporters will feel the consequences.” EU Council President Charles Michel had previously announced new sanctions. Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) also spoke of “war crimes” for which the Russian army was “responsible”, but did not comment on the subject of sanctions.

Bucha is one of the places around Kyiv that have been liberated by the Ukrainian army in the past few days. Almost 300 bodies were found there after the Russian withdrawal, authorities said. Reporters from the AFP news agency reported that many of the dead wore civilian clothing. They saw at least 20 bodies lying on a single street in Bucha. At least one of the dead had his hands tied.

Apparently, similar crimes may have been committed in other places in the capital region. Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venedyktova said Sunday that 410 bodies had been found in locations around Kyiv. Many crimes have been committed and are still being committed.

Russia unsurprisingly denied responsibility for the killings. Any image and film material published by Ukraine in this context constitutes a provocation, the RIA news agency reported, citing the Ministry of Defense in Moscow. “During the period when the settlement was under the control of the Russian armed forces, not a single resident suffered from any acts of violence,” the Defense Ministry said in Moscow. The soldiers left the Kiev suburb on Wednesday.

“This is genocide. The annihilation of a nation and its people,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He demanded on the US broadcaster CBS that “all those responsible, including the commanders, must be punished”. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba spoke of a “deliberate massacre” and called for the G7 group to impose severe sanctions, such as a complete embargo on Russian oil and gas.

“All these people were shot,” Mayor Anatoly Fedoruk said. “You killed her with a shot in the back of the head.” There are cars on the streets in which “whole families have been killed: children, women, grandmothers, men”. According to the human rights organization “Human Rights Watch” (HRW), a number of “obvious war crimes” by the Russian troops were documented – in addition to Kyiv, these were also committed in the Chernihiv regions in the north and in Kharkiv in the east of the country.

Western politicians reacted with horror. “You can’t help but see these images as a punch in the stomach,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN on Sunday. “Further EU sanctions and support are on the way. Slava Ukrajini!” tweeted EU Council President Michel. French President Emmanuel Macron described the images “with hundreds of cowardly murdered civilians on the streets” as “intolerable”. “The Russian authorities must answer for these crimes.”

Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen was also “deeply shaken” by the “terrifying pictures” in Butscha. “These crimes against humanity, against everything we stand for, will be punished,” emphasized the Federal President on Twitter on Sunday evening. In this regard, Nehammer clearly pointed in the direction of Moscow. In Bucha “war crimes were committed. The Russian army has to answer for it”. The Vienna foreign office had previously called for a UN investigation. Politicians from the Greens and NEOS called for a tougher approach to Russia.

Corresponding demands were also made in Germany. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock had also announced tougher sanctions before Scholz. Defense Minister Lambrecht brought up a gas stop, but referred to the necessary clarifications within the EU. So far, Germany, together with Austria, has been one of the brakemen within the EU when it comes to a waiver of Russian gas supplies. On the other hand, the Baltic states announced on Sunday that they had completely stopped using Russian gas at the beginning of the month.

The leader of the Christian Democrats in the European Parliament, Manfred Weber, also called for a drastic tightening of sanctions against Russia. “It is high time to end coal and oil supplies from Russia and to increase arms supplies to Ukraine,” the German Christian Socialist told the newspapers of the Funke media group.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi described the pictures from Butscha as “terrible and unbearable”. In addition to a “fifth package of sanctions”, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas also called for more arms deliveries to Ukraine. Her Slovenian colleague Janez Jansa emphasized: “Our top priority should be increased military support. Tanks and suhois (Russian warplanes, ed.) can only be stopped by modern missiles.” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he wanted “to do everything in my power to starve Putin’s war machine”. London will both tighten sanctions against Moscow and increase arms deliveries.

On the last day of his visit to Malta, Pope Francis called for unity with Ukraine. “Let’s pray for peace and remember the humanitarian tragedy of the martyred Ukraine,” said the head of the Catholic Church on Sunday in Floriana at the end of the mass. The Holy Father deviated from his original speech at this point. The country is still under bombardment from this “sacrilegious war,” the 85-year-old explained.

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