Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused the Russians of gruesome atrocities in Ukraine and told the UN Security Council that those responsible should immediately be brought up on war crimes charges in front of a tribunal like the one set up at Nuremberg after World War II.
Zelenskyy, appearing via video from Ukraine, said civilians had been shot in the back of the head after being tortured, blown up with grenades in their apartments, and crushed to death by tanks while in cars.
"They cut off limbs, cut their throats. Women were raped and killed in front of their children. Their tongues were pulled out only because their aggressor did not hear what they wanted to hear from them," he said, recounting what he described as the worst atrocities since World War II.
Over the past few days, grisly images of what appeared to be civilian massacres carried out by Russian forces on the outskirts of Kyiv before they pulled back from the capital have stirred global revulsion and led Western nations to expel dozens of Moscow's diplomats and propose further sanctions, including a ban on coal imports from Russia.
He said that both those who carried out the killings and those who gave the orders "must be brought to justice immediately for war crimes" in front of a tribunal similar to what was used in postwar Germany.
Reiterating what the Kremlin has been saying for days, Moscow's UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, denied Russian troops targeted civilians and said the horrors depicted had been staged by the Ukrainians.
"You only saw what they showed you," he said. "The only ones who would fall for this are Western dilettantes."
Associated Press journalists in the town have counted dozens of corpses in civilian clothes and interviewed Ukrainians who told of witnessing atrocities. Also, high-resolution satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies showed that many of the bodies had been lying in the open for weeks, during the time that Russian forces were in the town.
On Tuesday, police and other investigators walked the silent streets of Bucha, taking notes on bodies that residents showed them. Survivors who hid in their homes during the month-long Russian occupation of the town, many of them past middle age, wandered past charred tanks and jagged window panes with plastic bags of food and other humanitarian aid. Red Cross workers checked in on intact homes.
Many of the victims seen by AP journalists appeared to have been shot at close range, and some had their hands bound or their flesh burned. A mass grave in a churchyard held bodies wrapped in plastic.
The AP and the PBS series Frontline have jointly verified at least 90 incidents during the war that appeared to violate international humanitarian law. The War Crimes Watch Ukraine project includes details of apparent targeted attacks as well as indiscriminate destruction of civilian buildings and infrastructure.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the images from Bucha revealed "not the random act of a rogue unit" but "a deliberate campaign to kill, to torture, to rape, to commit atrocities". He said that the reports of atrocities were "more than credible," and that the US and other countries will seek to hold the culprits accountable.
"Only non-humans are capable of this," said Angelica Chernomor, a refugee from Kyiv who crossed into Poland with her two children and saw the photos from Bucha. "Even if people live under a totalitarian regime, they must retain feelings, dignity, but they do not."
Chernomor is among the more than 4 million Ukrainians who have fled the country in the wake of the February 24 invasion.
Russia has rejected similar accusations of atrocities in the past by accusing its enemies of forging photos and video and using so-called crisis actors.
As Western leaders condemned the killings in Bucha, Italy, Spain and Denmark expelled dozens of Russian diplomats on Tuesday, following moves by Germany and France. Hundreds of Russian diplomats have been sent home since the start of the invasion, many accused of being spies.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the expulsions a "short-sighted" measure that would complicate communication and warned they would be met with "reciprocal steps".
In another show of support, the European Union's executive branch proposed a ban on coal imports from Russia, in what would be the first time the 27-nation bloc has sanctioned the country's lucrative energy industry over the war. The coal imports amount to an estimated €4 billion ($4.4 billion) per year.
EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen denounced Moscow's "heinous crimes" around Kyiv.
Just hours before the latest proposal was announced, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that to prevent "new Buchas" the West must impose the "mother of all sanctions" — on Russian oil and gas.
"A few months of tightening your belts are worth thousands of saved lives."
But Western nations are divided over how far to go. While some are calling for a boycott of Russian oil and gas, Germany and others fear that such a move could plunge the continent into a severe economic crisis.
Western weapons have enabled Ukraine to mount a stiffer than expected resistance to Russia's overwhelming firepower. That resistance stopped Russian forces from overrunning the capital and other cities, and many troops have now withdrawn from areas around Kyiv.
US and Group of 7 to ban Russian investments
Meanwhile, the United States, in coordination with the EU and Group of 7 nations, will roll out new sanctions against Russia — including an investment freeze — in response to the evidence of war crimes in Ukraine, according to a senior administration official.
Among the measures being taken against Russia are a ban on all new investment in that country, greater sanctions on its financial institutions and state-owned enterprises, and sanctions on government officials and their family members. The official insisted on anonymity to discuss the forthcoming announcement.
US President Joe Biden and US allies have worked together to levy crippling economic penalties against Russia for invading Ukraine more than a month ago, including the freezing of central bank assets, export controls and the seizing of property, including yachts, that belong to Russia's wealthy elite.
But calls for increased sanctions intensified this week in response to the attacks, killings and destruction in the Ukrainian city of Bucha.
The official said the sanctions would further Russia's economic, financial and technological "isolation" from the rest of the world as a penalty for its attacks on civilians in Ukraine.
That isolation is a key aspect of the US strategy, which is premised on the idea that Russia will ultimately lack the resources and equipment to keep fighting a prolonged war in Ukraine.
An increasingly desperate Russia has engaged in military tactics that have outraged much of the wider global community, leading to charges that is committing war crimes and causing other sanctions.
Still, almost all of the EU has refrained from an outright ban on Russian oil, natural gas and coal that would likely crush the Russian economy.
On Monday, Biden called for his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to be tried for war crimes because of the atrocities and abuses seen around Kyiv after Russian forces pulled back from the Ukrainian capital. The corpses of what appeared to be civilians were seen strewn in yards, many of them likely killed at close range.
Biden said Monday that the US and its allies would gather details for a war crimes trial, stressing that Putin has been "brutal" and his actions "outrageous."
But Western and Ukrainian officials say Russia is merely regrouping for another offensive in the industrial Donbas region in the east, where Russia-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian troops for the last eight years. The Donbas includes the shattered port city of Mariupol.
"Moscow is not giving up its ambitions in Ukraine," Nato's Jens Stoltenberg said. "We expect a further push in the eastern and southern Ukraine to try to take the entire Donbas and to create a land bridge" to the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. - AP