A Ukrainian service member inspects a compound of the Antonov airfield, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in the settlement of Hostomel, in Kyiv region, Ukraine April 3, 2022.
A Ukrainian service member inspects a compound of the Antonov airfield, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in the settlement of Hostomel, in Kyiv region, Ukraine April 3, 2022. Reuters / GLEB GARANICH

International outrage spread on Monday over civilian killings in northern Ukraine, where a mass grave and tied bodies of people shot at close range were found in a town taken back from Russian forces, as Moscow shifted the focus of the fighting elsewhere.

The deaths in Bucha, outside Kyiv, are likely to galvanise the United States and Europe into additional sanctions against Moscow, possibly including some restrictions on the billions of dollars in energy that Europe still imports from Russia.

The discoveries overshadowed peace talks between Russia and Ukraine that were due to resume on Monday against a backdrop of artillery barrages in Ukraine's south and east, where Moscow says it is now focusing its operations after it fell short in attempts to take any major cities in the heart of the country.

"These are war crimes and will be recognised by the world as genocide," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on a visit to Bucha. It had become harder, he said, for Ukraine to negotiate with Russia as a result.

Taras Shapravskyi, deputy mayor of the town some 40 km (25 miles) northwest of the capital Kyiv, said around 50 victims of extra-judicial killings by Russian troops had been found there after Kremlin forces withdrew late last week.

Reuters saw one man sprawled by the roadside, his hands bound behind his back and a bullet wound to his head. Hands and feet poked through red clay at a mass grave by a church where satellite images showed a 45-foot-long trench.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the evidence of civilian killings was just the "tip of the iceberg", with Ukrainian forces yet to reach all areas vacated by Russian troops, and showed the need for tougher sanctions on Moscow.

Washington, at Kyiv's request, was backing a multi-national team of international prosecutors who would help collect and analyse evidence of atrocities with a view towards pursuing accountability, the U.S. State Department said on Monday.

The Kremlin categorically denied any accusations related to the murder of civilians, including in Bucha. "This information must be seriously questioned," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters. "From what we have seen, our experts have identified signs of video falsification and other fakes."


Ukrainian authorities said they had found 421 civilian casualties near Kyiv by Sunday and were investigating possible war crimes in Bucha, a description also used by French President Emmanuel Macron and, in reference to Russia's broader offensive, by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Reuters saw more makeshift burials elsewhere but could not independently verify the number of dead or who was responsible.

In the village of Motyzhyn, west of Kyiv, Reuters reporters saw three bodies in a forest grave. An adviser to Ukraine's interior ministry said the victims were the village's leader, Olha Sukhenko, her husband Ihor and son Oleksandr.

Ihor, a local resident who said he was a relative of the family and did not give his surname, told Reuters: "I don't know what they were killed for. They were peaceful, kind people."

Zelenskiy has used the term genocide at various times during the war, decrying what he calls an intent to eliminate the nation by Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, who has questioned Ukraine's legitimate, independent history from Russia.

U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday repeated his accusation that Putin was a war criminal and he called for a war crimes trial. "This guy is brutal. And what's happening in Bucha is outrageous, and everyone's seen it," Biden told reporters.

Russia has previously denied targeting civilians and rejected allegations of war crimes in what it calls a "special military operation" aimed at demilitarising and "denazifying" Ukraine. Ukraine says it was invaded without provocation.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Putin and his supporters would "feel the consequences" of events in Bucha. Western allies would agree further sanctions against Moscow in coming days, he said, though their timing and reach were not clear.

German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said the European Union must discuss banning Russian gas, though other officials urged caution around measures that could touch off a European energy crisis.


On the other side of the country in Mariupol, a southeastern port that has been under siege for weeks, Reuters images showed three bodies in civilian clothes lying in the street, one against a wall sprayed with blood. Outside a damaged apartment building, residents buried other dead in a shell crater.

"It is easier to dig here," a resident said, saying four bodies were in the improvised grave. Nearby, the skeletal remains of residential tower blocks and other buildings surrounded by dust and debris dominated the skyline.

Ukraine says it has evacuated thousands of civilians in the past few days from the city, which is surrounded by areas held by Russian-backed separatists in the eastern Donbas region.

Several attempts by International Committee of the Red Cross teams to reach the besieged city in recent days have been unsuccessful, and a spokesman for the organisation said it was again unable to enter on Monday to evacuate civilians.


Ukraine is preparing for what its general staff said were about 60,000 Russian reservists called in to reinforce Moscow's offensive in the east, after Russian forces bogged down elsewhere in the face of unexpectedly lethal and mobile Ukrainian resistance using Western anti-tank weaponry.

Officials in Ukraine's northern regions, nearest Russia, said Russian troops there had fully withdrawn or significantly scaled back in number.

Over the weekend Ukraine said its forces had wrested back all areas around Kyiv, claiming complete control of the capital region for the first time since Russia launched its onslaught.

On Monday, a senior U.S. defence official said Russia had repositioned about two-thirds of its forces from around Kyiv, with many consolidating in close ally Belarus where they were expected to be refit and resupply.

Reuters could not independently confirm the statements about Russian troop movements. Reuters correspondents saw convoys of armoured vehicles belonging to pro-Russia forces near Mariupol.