On Friday, March 31, 2023, Ukrainians commemorated the anniversary of the liberation of Bucha with calls for remembrance and justice after a brutal Russian occupation.
At an official ceremony in Bucha, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, averred, “We will not let it be forgotten,” vowing to punish those who committed outrages there.
“Human dignity will not let it be forgotten. On the streets of Bucha, the world has seen Russian evil. Evil unmasked.”President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
The Kremlin’s forces occupied Bucha weeks after they invaded Ukraine and stayed for about a month. When Ukrainian troops retook the town, they encountered horrific scenes. Over weeks and months, hundreds of bodies were uncovered, including children.
At the official commemoration in Bucha, Zelenskyy was joined by the President of Moldova and the Prime Ministers of Croatia, Slovakia and Slovenia.
Zelenskyy handed out medals to soldiers, police officers, doctors, teachers and emergency workers in Bucha, as well as to the families of two soldiers killed during the defense of the Kyiv region.
“Ukrainian people, you have stopped the biggest anti-human force of our times. You have stopped the force which has no respect and wants to destroy everything that gives meaning to human life.”President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
More than 1,400 civilian deaths, including 37 children, were documented in the Bucha district by Ukrainian authorities, Zelenskyy stated. More than 175 people were found in mass graves and alleged torture chambers, he said. Ukraine and other countries, including the U.S., have demanded that Russia answer for war crimes.
Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin alleged on Friday that many of the dead civilians were tortured. Almost 100 Russian soldiers are suspected of war crimes, he noted on his Telegram channel, and indictments have been issued for 35 of them.
Two Russian servicemen have already been sentenced by a Ukrainian court to 12 years in prison for illegally depriving civilians of liberty, and for looting.
“I am convinced that all these crimes are not a coincidence. This is part of Russia’s planned strategy aimed at destroying Ukraine as a state and Ukrainians as a nation.”Andriy Kostin
In Geneva, the U.N. human rights Chief, Volker Türk disclosed that his office has so far verified the deaths of more than 8,400 civilians in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion; a count believed to be far short of the true toll.
Türk informed the U.N. Human Rights Council that “severe violations of human rights and international humanitarian law have become shockingly routine” amid Russia’s invasion.
Lukashenko Calls For Cease-Fire In Ukraine
Belarusian President, Alexander Lukashenko, along with announcing the possibility of Russian strategic nuclear weapons being put on his country’s soil, at the same time called for a cease-fire in Ukraine.
In his state-of-the-nation address in Minsk, Lukashenko stated that a truce must be announced without any preconditions, and all movement of troops and weapons must be halted.
“It’s necessary to stop now before an escalation begins,” Lukashenko said, adding that an anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive using Western-supplied weapons would bring “an irreversible escalation of the conflict.”
However, Kremlin Spokesman, Dmitry Peskov responded that Russia has to keep fighting, claiming Ukraine has rejected any talks under pressure from its Western allies.
Peskov also dismissed remarks by Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban that the European Union was mulling the deployment of peacekeeping troops to Ukraine, calling that “extremely dangerous.”
Elsewhere in Ukraine, fighting continued on Friday; Russia used its long-range arsenal to bombard several areas.
Russia has maintained its bombardment of Ukraine with the war already into its second year. Along with the two civilians killed on Friday, 14 other civilians were wounded early Friday as Russia launched missiles, shells, exploding drones and gliding bombs, the Ukraine presidential office said.
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