Russia waged deliberate campaign to commit atrocities in Bucha, Blinken says

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to members of the media, before departing for Brussels from Joint Base Andrews, in Maryland, U.S. April 5, 2022. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/Pool

WASHINGTON, April 5 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday the killings in the Ukrainian town of Bucha were no random act of a rogue unit but part of a deliberate Russian campaign to commit atrocities.

He offered no evidence to support his assertion of a deliberate campaign. But before departing for a NATO foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels, he told reporters Washington backed Ukrainian efforts to investigate what happened.

"What we've seen in Bucha is not the random act of a rogue unit," he said. "It's a deliberate campaign to kill, to torture, to rape, to commit atrocities. The reports are more than credible, the evidence is there for the world to see."

Russia, which says it launched a "special military operation" in Ukraine on Feb. 24 to demilitarize and "denazify" its neighbor, denies targeting civilians and said the deaths were a "monstrous forgery" staged by the West to discredit it.

Grim images emerging from the town of Bucha near Kyiv include a mass grave and bound bodies of people shot at close range, prompting calls for tougher action against Moscow and an international investigation.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said at least 300 civilians had been killed in Bucha and many more dead were likely to be found in other areas. He was due to speak by video on Tuesday to the United Nations Security Council.

President Joe Biden's administration has said Russia's actions in Ukraine constitute war crimes and Biden on Monday accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of war crimes and called for a trial.

Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis, writing by Chris Gallagher and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Howard Goller

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