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Images of Russian atrocities push West toward tougher sanctions

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Bucha, outside of Kyiv, on Monday.Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press

The images of dead Ukrainians, some with their hands tied and others haphazardly buried in pits, spurred shocked Western leaders Monday to promise even tougher sanctions against Russia, including possibly on energy, as the Kremlin dug in and showed signs of preparing a new assault.

The growing evidence that Russian soldiers killed scores of civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha prompted President Joe Biden to call for President Vladimir Putin of Russia to face a “war crime trial.” Germany and France expelled a total of 75 Russian diplomats, and President Emmanuel Macron of France said the European Union should consider sanctions against Russian coal and oil.


“This guy is brutal,” Biden said of Putin. “And what’s happening in Bucha is outrageous, and everyone’s seen it.”

In Moscow on Monday, Putin said nothing about his war in Ukraine, but his spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said the Kremlin “categorically” denied “any allegations” of Russian involvement in the atrocities. Instead, Russia’s state media aired relentless conspiracy theories about what it said was a Ukrainian fabrication, while authorities threatened to prosecute anyone who publicly blamed Russians for the Bucha killings.

Russia said the bodies had been placed only recently on the streets after “all Russian units withdrew completely from Bucha” around Wednesday. But a review of videos and satellite imagery by The New York Times shows that many of the civilians were killed more than three weeks ago, when Russia’s military was in control of the town.

The war in Ukraine may now be headed for an even more dangerous phase, despite Russia’s withdrawal last week from areas near Kyiv.

Ukrainian and Western officials said that Russia appeared to be positioning troops for an intensified assault in the eastern Donbas area, where the port city of Mariupol remains under a brutal siege. And in Kharkiv, roughly 30 miles from the Russian border, unrelenting bombardment has left parts of the city of 1.4 million unrecognizable.


With the Russian economy showing some signs of resilience after the initial shock of the wide-ranging Western sanctions put in place after Putin’s invasion in February, the Kremlin appeared to be girding for a continuation of the war, despite talk in European capitals of now possibly banning Russian coal, oil or, less likely, gas.

In a visit to Bucha on Monday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine left the door open to a negotiated peace.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.