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German intel said to intercept Russian communications confirming Bucha killings

Der Spiegel says audio files correlate to specific victims in Ukrainian town, and provide evidence that mercenaries from notorious Wagner Group were involved in atrocities

Workers line up bodies for identification by forensic personnel and police officers in the cemetery in Bucha, north of Kyiv, on April 6, 2022, after hundreds of civilians were found dead in areas from which Russian troops have withdrawn around Ukraine's capital, including the town of Bucha. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP)
Workers line up bodies for identification by forensic personnel and police officers in the cemetery in Bucha, north of Kyiv, on April 6, 2022, after hundreds of civilians were found dead in areas from which Russian troops have withdrawn around Ukraine's capital, including the town of Bucha. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP)

BERLIN, Germany — German intelligence services have intercepted radio traffic of Russian soldiers discussing the killings of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, Der Spiegel reported Thursday, in what would be new evidence linking Moscow troops to the murders.

Some of the audio material collected appears to relate to victims found dead along a main street in Bucha, the magazine said, citing a closed-door parliamentary briefing given by Germany’s foreign intelligence service BND.

Among the intercepts was a soldier’s description of how he and his platoon mates shot a person on a bicycle.

AFP journalists on the ground in Bucha saw three bodies tangled up in bicycles among the 20 corpses found along the tree-lined street, after Russian troops withdrew.

The Kremlin has, however, denied the accusations of mass killings, claiming instead that the images emerging from Bucha were “fakes” or that the deaths occurred after Russian soldiers pulled out.

Der Spiegel said the audio files intercepted by the BND also provide evidence of the Wagner mercenary group’s role in the atrocities.

A dead body lies on the ground in a street in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, on April 2, 2022. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP)

The killings were also apparently not random acts. Rather, the soldiers were discussing the killings “as though they were simply discussing their everyday lives,” said the magazine.

The German government had said on Wednesday that satellite images from last month provided strong counterevidence against Russia’s denials of the atrocities.

Images at Berlin’s disposal covered the period from March 10 to 18 and “led to the conclusion that the victims whose images we all saw were lying there since at least March 10,” said government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit.

“Reliable evidence shows that Russian fighting and security forces were deployed in this area from March 7 until the 30th,” he said.

When asked if the satellite images viewed by German officials were from allies or media sources, Hebestreit replied: “These are our findings, but as you know we do not comment on the origin or evaluation of intelligence matters.”

UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said Thursday during a visit to the town that investigators would probe civilian deaths uncovered after Russian troops withdrew.

“The world is already deeply shocked,” Griffiths said in the town that was strewn with bodies after Moscow’s forces pulled out, adding that, “the next step is conducting investigations.”

UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths (C) walks in the streets of Bucha, on April 7, 2022, during his three-hour visit in the city that included a stop at the site of a mass grave that Ukrainians had dug near a church, a day after he visited Moscow, where he met with officials to discuss the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, more than a month into the Russian invasion. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP)

Griffiths arrived in Bucha around 1300 GMT,  accompanied by Amin Awad, the UN’s coordinator on the Ukraine crisis, for a three-hour visit that included a stop at the site of a mass grave that Ukrainians had dug near a church.

His trip came a day after he visited Moscow, where he met with officials to discuss the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, more than a month into the Russian invasion.

Turkey on Thursday said that the images from Bucha and other areas near Kyiv have scuppered the positive atmosphere of recent talks between Russia and Ukraine.

NATO member Turkey, which has friendly ties to Russia and Ukraine, has been mediating for an end to the six-week war.

In this photo provided by the Turkish Presidency, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center, gives a speech to welcome the Russian, left, and Ukrainian delegations ahead of their talks, in Istanbul, Turkey, on March 29, 2022. (Turkish Presidency via AP)

“The images from Bucha, Irpin and other regions are unacceptable. These scenes have overshadowed the negotiations,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told journalists after a NATO meeting in Brussels.

“The emerging positive atmosphere, unfortunately, was overshadowed.”

Turkey hosted talks last week between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators. On March 31, Cavusoglu had said the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers could meet within two weeks.

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