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Lapid says scenes from Ukraine’s Bucha ‘horrific,’ targeting civilians a ‘war crime’

Hundreds of bodies found in Kyiv suburb after Russian retreat; asked earlier if Israel’s ambassador to Ukraine had accused Russia of crimes, Foreign Ministry was hesitant

Ukrainian servicemen attach a cable to the body of a civilian while checking for booby traps in the formerly Russian-occupied Kyiv suburb of Bucha, Ukraine, April 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Ukrainian servicemen attach a cable to the body of a civilian while checking for booby traps in the formerly Russian-occupied Kyiv suburb of Bucha, Ukraine, April 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Sunday evening became the most senior Israeli official to react to the shocking scenes of civilian carnage from the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, saying in a tweet that “it is impossible to remain indifferent in the face of the horrific images from the city of Bucha near Kiev, from after the Russian army left.”

He added: “Intentionally harming a civilian population is a war crime and I strongly condemn it.”

Since the Russian military left, Ukrainian authorities have said they found hundreds of bodies of civilians. Many were dumped in mass graves, and dozens were left out in the streets.

The world has reacted with shock and anger to the images, amid fears that many other locales controlled by the Russian army may offer similar horrors.

Russia has denied any responsibility for the civilian deaths, claiming the images shared by Ukrainian authorities are a “production.”

Lapid’s tweet did not explicitly accuse Russia of war crimes. Israel has used careful diplomatic language on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as it has sought to keep good relations with Moscow as well as Kyiv.

Lapid’s post came hours after his office refused to comment on potential Russian war crimes, in response to comments by Israel’s ambassador to Ukraine.

“Deeply shocked by the photos from Bucha. Killing of civilians is a war crime and cannot be justified,” Israeli envoy Michael Brodsky wrote.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (C), Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai and Jerusalem District Commander Doron Turgeman at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, April 3, 2022. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

But a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry told Haaretz that Brodsky had been speaking for himself and highlighted that the envoy “did not blame Russia.”

Reporters saw dozens of bodies, all in civilian clothing, strewn in one street in Bucha when they arrived early Sunday.

Three of them were tangled up in bicycles, while others had fallen next to bullet-ridden and crushed cars.

One had his hands tied behind his back with a white cloth, with his Ukrainian passport left open beside his corpse.

“All these people were shot,” said Bucha’s mayor, Anatoly Fedoruk, adding that 280 other bodies had been buried in mass graves in the town. “These are the consequences of Russian occupation.”

The International Criminal Court has already opened a probe into possible war crimes committed in Ukraine, and several Western leaders, including US President Joe Biden, have accused Russia’s Vladimir Putin of being a war criminal.

A body of a civilian man with hands tied behind his back lies in the street as a communal worker prepares a plastic body bag to carry him to a waiting car in town of Bucha, not far from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on April 3, 2022. (Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP)

Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, described bodies lying the streets of the suburbs of Irpin and Hostomel as well as Bucha as a “scene from a horror movie.” He alleged that some of the women found dead had been raped before being killed and the Russians then burned the bodies.

“This is genocide,” Zelensky told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

In a post later Sunday on Telegram, he asked Russian mothers to watch what is happening, saying they have raised “murderers, marauders, executioners.”

But Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that the photos and videos of dead bodies “have been stage-managed by the Kyiv regime for the Western media.” It noted that Bucha’s mayor did not mention any abuses a day after Russian troops left.

The ministry charged said “not a single civilian has faced any violent action by the Russian military” in Bucha.

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