Russia Raises Doubt Over Ukraine Peace Prospects After Bucha Killings Allegations

Russia raised doubt over prospects for peace with Ukraine after allegations by Kyiv that the Russian army committed "genocide" in the city of Bucha, killing scores of civilians.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday condemned the "concentrated evil" of the Russian military on his visit to Bucha, 15 miles northwest of Kyiv, where scores of dead bodies littered the streets, many of them civilians.

Ukraine has claimed that civilians in Bucha have been executed, raped and tortured by Russian troops, who also ran over their corpses in tanks. Witnesses have also told stories of soldiers—likely Chechens fighting for the Russians—shooting dead family members.

There was an international outcry at the reports and several countries, including the United States, have accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of "war crimes." On Wednesday British Prime Minister Boris Johnson compared the Bucha scenes to "genocide."

A statement by Russian Foreign Minster Sergey Lavrov sent to Newsweek on Wednesday accused "the propaganda machine" of Ukraine and the West of "fueling hysteria" over Bucha.

"Assertions of 'war crimes' committed by the Russian Armed Forces in the course of the special military operation have repeatedly been proved false at the detailed briefings by the Russian Defense Ministry, our Ministry and the Permanent Mission to the UN where we held a special news conference yesterday," Lavrov said.

He added: "The question, then, is what purpose does this blatantly false provocation serve? We are inclined to view it as a pretext to torpedo the ongoing negotiations at a time when some light, however dim, has appeared at the end of the tunnel."

He cited peace talks between Russia and Ukrainian diplomats in Istanbul that saw the Ukrainian side say it is prepared to declare its country as a neutral and non-aligned state.

"The security guarantees envisaged by the treaty are a step toward everyone realizing that the negotiations need to completely rule out NATO's eastward expansion, primarily to Ukraine, and to ensure indivisible security in Europe," Lavrov said, adding that there had been "significant progress" in negotiating the autonomy of Donbas and Crimea in eastern Ukraine.

Despite international condemnation, Lavrov alleged that the Bucha atrocities were blamed on Russia "to divert attention from the negotiation process and from the fact that, after Istanbul, the Ukrainian side began to backpedal and tried to attach new conditions."

"In order for us to make real progress, instead of just the appearance of progress, we insist that Kiev be sent an unambiguous message not to resort to sabotage. Otherwise, we risk repeating the fate of the Minsk agreements. And that is something we will never do."

The Minsk agreements were a series of failed international agreements, the first of which was drafted in 2014, that sought to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Sergey Lavrov
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov holds a press conference after the meeting with Ukrainian representatives on March 10, 2022 in Antalya, Turkey. Lavrov said that peace with Ukraine is in doubt after allegations by Kyiv that the Russian army committed “genocide” in the city of Bucha. Riza Özel