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Zelensky says Bucha must become ‘symbol of justice’

By AFP
April 01, 2023

KYIV, Ukraine: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday called for Bucha to become a “symbol of justice” on the one-year anniversary of Russia´s withdrawal from the town now synonymous with war crimes allegations.

“We must do everything to make Bucha a symbol of justice... We want every Russian murderer, executioner, terrorist to be held responsible for every crime,” Zelensky said at a Kyiv summit on the Bucha crimes.

Earlier the Ukrainian president visited Bucha with leaders of Croatia, Moldova, Slovakia and Slovenia for a commemoration ceremony. “What happened in Bucha, the Russian army does it wherever it goes,” Zelensky said back in Kyiv.

He said the Bucha tragedy exemplified the “systemic genocidal violence, which is the essence of Russian actions in all Ukrainian occupied territories.” Ukraine estimates that around 1,400 civilians died around Bucha, and 637 in the town itself.

Ukraine will use its national judicial system to hold accountable “the majority of Russian murderers and terrorists,” Zelensky said. It will also rely on the International Criminal Court “which is able to prosecute Russian war criminals of various levels within its jurisdiction.”

Kyiv is also working on the establishment of a special tribunal for the crime of aggression. In a video message on Friday evening US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States “will continue pushing for accountability and for justice for as long as it takes.”

French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday accused Moscow of having “allowed, even encouraged” war crimes in Ukraine. “Russian agression has led to systematic war crimes against Ukraine and its population,” he said in a video message played at the Kyiv meeting.

“And far from sanctioning these crimes which go against all the laws of war, Russia´s leaders allowed them to happen, even encouraged them, in defiance of international law and with the clear objective of subjugating the Ukrainian nation through violence,” said Macron.Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russian troops of carrying out war crimes, pointing to extensive footage and witness accounts.Leaders from Croatia, Slovakia and Slovenia were also in Bucha and Moldova´s President Maia Sandu said those responsible should be held accountable.

“Without justice there can never be peace,” she said in Bucha. After Russia withdrew from the towns near Kyiv, fighting shifted to the south and east of Ukraine. The town of Bakhmut is now the scene of the longest and bloodiest battle since the invasion.

A year after it was retaken by Kyiv´s forces, Bucha has not forgotten its victims. AFP this week saw dozens of construction workers, diggers and trucks rebuilding homes and roads in the town where 37,000 people lived before the war.