The scale of Russian atrocities against Ukraine’s civilian population became increasingly clear after areas around Kyiv were liberated from the occupying troops. Horrific images from Bucha, a town located to the north-west of Kyiv, showed numerous bodies of dead civilians scattered around its streets. The local mayor said his citizens had been killed in cold blood by Russian forces.
Now a leading researcher at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) claimed that Putin’s plan all along had been to target and kill innocent civilians in a deliberate attempt to impose maximum terror on the population.
Jack Watling said: “Anyone saying that Bucha is the result of brutalisation or rogue behaviour is wrong.
“This was the plan. It was pre-meditated. It is consistent with Russian methods in Chechnya.
“And if the Russian military had been more successful there would have been many more towns like it.”
Mr Watling added he had been warned by a senior Ukrainian security official that the Kremlin had dispatched a “unit onto the Belarusian axis who will lead the killings” on his last trip to Kyiv.
Ukrainian ministers and officials argued the photos of the massacred civilians prove Russia wants nothing less than the total destruction of their country.
They called on Western leaders to provide more meaningful weapons and to impose stricter sanctions on Moscow.
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, tweeted: “Bucha massacre was deliberate. Russians aim to eliminate as many Ukrainians as they can.
“We must stop them and kick them out. I demand new devastating G7 sanctions NOW:
-Oil, gas, coal embargo
-Close all ports to Russian vessels and goods
-Disconnect all Russian banks from SWIFT”
Mikhail Podolyak, an adviser to President Volodymr Zelensky said: “Russia is waging a war to destroy the Ukrainian nation.
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Peter Bouckaert, an Emergencies Researcher at the organisation recounted several gruesome incidents to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in February 2000.
He said: “In December, Russian troops killed seventeen civilians in the village of Alkhan-Yurt while going on a looting spree, burning many of the remaining homes and raping several women.
“We have documented at least fifty murders, mostly of older men and women, by Russian soldiers in the Staropromyslovski district of Grozny since Russian forces took control of that district: innocent civilians shot to death in their homes and their yards.
“On February 5, a few days after Secretary of State Albright met with President Putin in Moscow, Russian forces went on a killing spree in the Aldi district of Grozny, shooting at least sixty-two and possibly many more civilians who were waiting in the street and their yards for soldiers to check their documents.
“These were entirely preventable deaths, not unavoidable casualties of war. They were acts of murder, plain and simple.”