Welcome to this week’s installment of The Intelligence Brief… in recent days, the world was shocked by images coming out of Ukraine depicting the apparent killings of civilians, revealed following the retreat of Russian forces from Kyiv. In light of the disturbing news, this week our analysis will focus on 1) the evidence, and what international leaders have said, 2) why satellite technology is preventing Russia’s attempts to deny that the killings took place, 3) what the latest response from the U.S. and other nations means for Russia, and 4) whether Vladimir Putin could actually stand trial for war crimes as a result of the killings in Bucha.
Quote of the Week
“There is no greater crime than an unnecessary war.”
Also, be sure to check out the latest video news from the team and our past interviews and updates, all of which you can watch over on The Debrief’s YouTube Channel. We’ll also have a complete listing of stories we’ve covered in recent days at the end of this newsletter.
And with that, it’s time to turn our attention toward disturbing revelations in recent days, and what they tell us about Russia’s actions in Ukraine in recent days.
Russian Forces Accused of Killing Civilians in Ukraine
According to reports, several of the bodies found near the Kyiv suburb of Bucha were reportedly located on the ground with their hands bound behind them, while others displayed evidence of close-range gunshot wounds to the head and even signs of torture.
“What is happening in Bucha is outrageous and everyone sees it,” Biden told reporters on Monday, who doubled down on his characterization of Russian forces and Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine as “a war crime.”
While Russia’s Defense Ministry has attempted to dodge the accusations, satellite images and other technologies are telling a very different story… one that creates a damning picture for Vladimir Putin.
Previously, a Russian Defense Ministry statement had alleged that “All the photos and videos published by the Kiev regime” depicting Russian war crimes “are just another provocation.”
“During the time that the town has been under the control of the Russian armed forces, not a single local resident has suffered from any violent action,” read a statement from the Russian Defense Ministry that appeared online. “Russian servicemen have delivered and distributed 452 tonnes of humanitarian aid to civilians in Kiev Region.”
Not so, according to the New York Times, who reports that videos made by local Ukrainian council members in Bucha showed “multiple bodies” along a roadway identified as Yablonska Street. Also, satellite images provided to the Times by Maxar Technologies “show that at least 11 of those had been on the street since March 11,” coinciding with the period that Russia occupied the town according to its own statements.
The evidence emerges amidst reports that The Debrief has learned of involving the Russian Federation enacting “a new national policy on mass burials during military conflicts,” which reportedly occurred just weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine.
As expected, the United States and other nations responded swiftly in light of the revelations.
A New Round of Sanctions Against Russia
“Today, the United States, with the G7 and the European Union, will continue to impose severe and immediate economic costs on the Putin regime for its atrocities in Ukraine, including in Bucha,” read an official statement issued by the White House on Wednesday.
“We will document and share information on these atrocities and use all appropriate mechanisms to hold accountable those responsible,” the statement read, adding that “the United States is announcing devastating economic measures to ban new investment in Russia, and impose the most severe financial sanctions on Russia’s largest bank and several of its most critical state-owned enterprises and on Russian government officials and their family members.”
“These sweeping financial sanctions follow our action earlier this week to cut off Russia’s frozen funds in the United States to make debt payments,” the White House statement reads. “Importantly, these measures are designed to reinforce each other to generate intensifying impact over time.”
The White House announcement followed statements earlier this week from Biden’s National Security advisor, Jake Sullivan, who told reporters Russia would “pay a severe price” for the killings of civilians in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy characterized the killings as Ukrainians being “destroyed and exterminated.” Speaking recently before the U.N. Security Council, Zelenskyy said that upon returning from a visit to Bucha, he was devastated at the destruction left in the wake of Russia’s failed attempt at taking Kyiv.
“There is not a single crime they would not commit there,” Zelenskyy said, adding, “They killed entire families, adults and children, and they tried to burn the bodies.”
“The massacre in our city of Bucha is only one, unfortunately only one example of what the occupiers have been doing on our territory for the past 41 days,” Zelenskyy said before the U.N. Security Council.
Sadly, Zelenskyy may be right. While the full extent of Russian atrocities in Ukraine may not be fully realized for some time, what has already been revealed presents a damning case against Vladimir Putin, one that has already prompted President Biden and other leaders to call for Putin to face trial for war crimes.
Although experts have already weighed in on the difficulty that bringing such charges against Putin would constitute, the International Criminal Court’s lead prosecutor has nonetheless argued the “reasonable basis” for believing that war crimes have been committed. Despite the difficulty, it is not impossible that Putin may one day still face trial for his crimes in Ukraine.
It is a sentiment that the rest of the world—having now been shown the heartbreaking evidence from Bucha that supports it—should agree with and resolutely support.
Though facial recognition technology is used by police departments, governments, and even online proctoring services, it has little scientific basis and often leads to discriminatory and harmful outcomes.
On Thursday, February 24, Russia launched a full-scale military invasion of neighboring Ukraine. The action marked a significant escalation between the countries, which have been in a state of conflict since Russia first supported an invasion of the eastern Donbas region and annexed the coastal peninsula of Crimea in 2014.