Following a weekend where Ukraine released a barrage of videos it says depicts massacres of civilians in the town of Bucha on the outskirts of Kiev, Western powers are mulling and readying a next wave of anti-Russia sanctions due to what the US and others say are war crimes.
The European Council said in a Monday statement: "The European Union condemns in the strongest possible terms the reported atrocities committed by the Russian armed forces in a number of occupied Ukrainian towns, that have now been liberated."
Ukrainian and Western media sources are widely citing that at least 300 residents of Bucha were killed, a town now back in control of Ukrainian forces, after the area endured "unspeakable horrors". Western media and officials are now increasingly using the word genocide to describe it. Ukrainian authorities say they've counted 410 among the bodies, most of them with gunshots, strewn about the town.
"The massacres in the town of Bucha and other Ukrainian towns will be inscribed in the list of atrocities committed on European soil," the EU added.
The Kremlin is vehemently rejecting the accusations, calling it a 'staged provocation' for the purpose of triggering more sanctions and drawing the West more into the fight. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, "Yesterday, the current UN SC president, Britain, acting in accordance with its worst traditions, once again refused to give consent to holding a Security Council meeting on Bucha. Today, Russia will demand once again the UN Security Council meet in session to discuss criminal provocations by the Ukrainian military and radicals in that city," according to TASS.
CNBC describes of the graphic and disturbing images now being featured on Western and American news networks:
Haunting photos of residential streets strewn with bodies have been published by international news outlets. Russia is denying the accusations, calling the photos "another provocation" from Ukraine.
CNN and others are reporting mass graves in the town and are now calling it scene of a "genocide" - also alleging that many civilians were executed with hands tied behind their backs:
JUST NOW: "What you have behind me here is a mass grave."— John Berman (@JohnBerman) April 4, 2022
One of the most chilling/terrifying opens to a live report I have ever heard... from @fpleitgenCNN in Bucha.
"They are finding dead in Bucha all over the place. "pic.twitter.com/Z0C63eEJEC
Further in response EU Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said before going into a meeting of euro-area finance ministers in Luxembourg: "We must step up our pressure against Russia and we must step up our support for Ukraine," according to Bloomberg. He confirmed that regarding new sanctions "discussions are ongoing" and that "nothing is off the table".
French President Emmanuel Macron was among top European leaders to say he's ready to support new sanctions as a result of Bucha, while German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht called on the European Union to discuss ending Russian gas imports.
⚡️ Macron responds to massacre in Bucha, urges ban on Russian coal, oil.— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) April 4, 2022
French President says he supports further sanctions against Moscow after Russia killed hundreds of Ukrainian civilians in Bucha, near Kyiv.
“There are very clear indications of war crimes,” he added.
But given that 40% of Europe's supply needs are met by Russia, it remains that:
"More sanctions of course also mean that the risk of energy disruptions in Europe rises, because of our own sanctions or because Russia might get completely serious with its counter-sanctions rather than just changing the payment mode for natural gas," said Ulrich Leuchtmann, Commerzbank Head of FX.
Indeed the real question remains just how to do all of this without EU members hurting their own countries' economies just as much if not more than what's intended for Russia.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had also immediately dismissed what he deemed a "fake attack" in Bucha. He said "such provocations" are a "direct threat to international peace and security" - as they aim to escalate toward a major NATO-Russia showdown.