Now that Ukrainian forces have retaken Bucha and other villages near Ukraine, the horrors of the Russian military occupation of those places are being reported, shocking people of good will everywhere and marking a turning point in Putin’s war in Ukraine and how the world sees what he and his minions are doing there.
Western leaders have demanded an investigation and imposed new sanctions, but the most important change has been in how they and ordinary people in the West view Russia, no longer as a country engaged in a limited military operation as Putin insists but as a criminal state pursuing a policy of genocide against the Ukrainians.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who visited the Russian killing fields of Bucha, directly accused Moscow of genocide and in an appeal to Russian mothers pointedly asked
even if you raised looters, how could they become killers? You could not fail to know what was inside your children. You could not fail to note that they had been stripped of everything human. … I want all the leaders of Russia to see how their orders are being carried out. Here are the orders; here is the execution. And complete responsibility. For these murders, for these tortures, for these crimes the results of which lie in the streets … Here is how the Russian state will be viewed. This is your image.
Moscow of course denies everything and even suggests that the Ukrainians staged all of this in order to make Russia look bad. But the evidence of Russian war crimes is too strong for any but the most deluded to accept that; and the scales seem to be falling from the eyes of many in the West who have sought to promote “understanding” of what Russia is doing in Ukraine.
As often happens following Russian actions, Polish leaders spoke most clearly of all about what has occurred and how the world should respond. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, in response to the reports from Bucha, said that Russian actions show what genocide in the 21st century looks like, something all will remember “until the last days of their lives.”
“Those who do not react to this are also responsible for the crimes,” he continued. “Each who allows such a tragedy to happen yet again also bears responsibility for it. I call on the leaders of the EU to act decisively” to strike out at Russia in ways that will hurt it most and that will save the honor of Europe.
And having labeled Russia “a totalitarian-fascist country,” Morawiecki spoke directly to French President Macron who keeps talking to Putin.
What have you achieved?” he asks. “You cannot conduct talks with criminals; instead, you must fight criminals instead. No one conducted talks with Hitler, or would you talk with Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot?
In the wake of Bucha, ever more Western leaders have gotten the message. US President Joe Biden declared that
we must continue to supply Ukraine with the arms it needs for its struggle. And we must assemble all the details on what happened in Kyiv Oblast for a real trial of those responsible for military crimes. This guy Putin is tough, and that which has happened in Bucha is infuriating and all can see that.
Let the author of these lines conclude on a personal note: I live in a small town in the Shenandoah valley. When Putin launched his expanded invasion of Ukraine, a few people put up Ukrainian flags on their homes and cars. Now, in the wake of Bucha, the numbers of those flags and bumper stickers have increased by an order of magnitude.
- Russia turned Bucha into one big torture chamber. Dispatch from Ukraine
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- Russian soldiers gang rape Ukrainian women, including little girls: witnesses of rape survivors
- “They were shot in the back of the head.” Eyewitness account of Russia’s murders of Bucha residents
- Abductions and smoke grenades: Russian occupiers trying to break peaceful resistance in Kherson Oblast
- The Russian invasion of Ukraine is an assault on the very concept of freedom
- Russian soldiers admit heavy losses, looting, shelling civilians in phone calls to wives and mothers
- Don’t pin your hopes on anti-war protests in Russia