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.”
Before we get into things, a few stories we’re covering this week at The Debrief include how NASA’s Perseverance Rover is driving at a record-setting pace toward a river delta potentially teeming with signs of ancient life. Also, new research says secondhand cannabis smoke, especially from bongs, contains high levels of carcinogens and particulate matter, as well as a study saying the IQs of more than 170 million Americans are estimated to have been affected by childhood lead exposure.
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
This week, the world learned of the atrocious killings of civilians in several parts of Ukraine, whose remains were found as Russian soldiers retreated following a failed attempt at taking the Ukrainian capital.
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.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson similarly told reporters this week that the actions of Russian soldiers in Ukraine “doesn’t look far short of genocide to me,” echoing sentiments of Ukraine-born Holocaust expert Eugene Finkel, who told The Independent on Tuesday that the killings “amount to genocide.” Now, even China has called for a probe into the killings, while stopping short of making accusations similar to Western leaders.
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.
Amidst Russian Denials, Satellite Imagery Says Otherwise
Russia, who has denied the killings and even called them fabrications, faces increasing scrutiny as videos have emerged that appear to show a cyclist being killed after being fired upon by a Russian armored vehicle, and satellite images that offer further irrefutable evidence of killings in Bucha over the last several weeks.
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.
Will Putin Ever Be Brought to Justice?
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.
That wraps up this week’s installment of The Intelligence Brief. You can read past editions of The Intelligence Brief at our website, or if you found this installment online, don’t forget to subscribe and get future email editions from us here. Also, if you have a tip or other information you’d like to send along directly to me, you can email me at micah [@] thedebrief [dot] org, or Tweet at me @MicahHanks.
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