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Editorial: Russia should accept independent inquiry into massacre near Kyiv

Numerous corpses believed to belong to civilians have been found in Bucha on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, after Russian troops withdrew from the town it once seized. It is likely that grave human rights violations took place there. The truth must be brought to light in an investigation.

    Journalists and others who entered the area following the Russian pullout from near Kyiv confirmed the bodies. Images of corpses lying on the streets were also posted on social media.

    The mayor of Bucha revealed that the bodies of 280 people had been buried, while Ukrainian judicial authorities said more than 400 civilians were killed. Observers say the actual damage is far more serious.

    The Ukrainian government claims that the civilian deaths are the result of a massacre by the Russian military. Japan, the United States and European countries are also condemning Russia over the findings.

    Meanwhile, Russia's Defense Ministry has denied that its troops have murdered civilians and counterargued that the photos and footage of the bodies were forged by the Ukrainian government for exposure to the Western media.

    During the Bosnian War, about 8,000 Muslims were killed in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. Some point out that the civilian killings in Bucha may be the largest in Europe since then.

    In the two world wars during the first half of the 20th century, countless civilians perished. Based on the painful lessons of wartime atrocities, the international community formed the Geneva Convention in 1949 to ensure civilians would not be targeted in wartime and that prisoners of war would be treated humanely.

    Nevertheless in Ukraine, a maternity hospital and a theater where children and others were taking shelter were bombed in Russian air raids. These brutalities apparently constitute war crimes. If it is further confirmed that mass killings of civilians in Bucha were systematically carried out, they may fall under "crimes against humanity."

    Ukrainian judicial authorities have expressed their intention to collect testimonials from residents and unravel the reality behind the Bucha massacre. An investigation conducted solely by one of the conflicting parties, however, may not be accepted by Russia due to its lack of objectivity.

    United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres released a statement calling for an independent investigation into the findings to clarify where the accountability for the tragedy lies.

    If such atrocities continue unabated, the Geneva Convention could become a mere dead letter. If Moscow is denying killing civilians in Bucha, it must agree to a probe by an independent international organization and actively cooperate with it.

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