Moscow faces growing scrutiny over alleged atrocities in Ukraine

Nearly two-thirds of Ukraine's children displaced six weeks after Russian invasion

Moscow faces growing international scrutiny over grave crimes allegedly committed by its invasion force in Ukraine, amid fears that intensifying clashes in the country's eastern Donbas region could deepen its humanitarian crisis and drive more refugees into the European Union.

Kyiv and western allies accuse Russia of bombing dozens of apartment blocks, health facilities, and schools and kindergartens across Ukraine since it launched an all-out invasion on February 24th that has killed thousands and displaced an estimated 11 million people, including nearly two-thirds of the country's children, according to UN agency Unicef.

Russian troops’ recent withdrawal from areas near Kyiv has revealed the scale of death, destruction and looting that they inflicted on towns and villages that they occupied such as Bucha, where the bodies of residents – some with their hands tied behind their backs – were found strewn in the streets.

''I addressed the serious war crimes in Bucha and other places and emphasised that all those responsible for them must be held accountable," Austrian chancellor Karl Nehammer said on Monday after meeting Russian president Vladimir Putin.


“I also told president Putin in no uncertain terms that sanctions against Russia will remain in place and will continue to be tightened as long as people are dying in Ukraine.”

Mr Nehammer was the first EU leader to meet Mr Putin since the start of his full-scale war against Ukraine, but he said the “very direct, open and tough” talks outside Moscow left him with “no optimistic impression”.

“This is not a friendly visit. I have just come from Ukraine and have seen with my own eyes the immeasurable suffering caused by the Russian war of aggression,” he said, while fending off criticism of his decision to meet Mr Putin by insisting it was vital “to leave no stone unturned” in the search for peace.

“My most important message to Putin was that this war must finally end, because in a war there are only losers on both sides,” Mr Nehammer said.

‘Mass graves’

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US envoy to the UN, said the world had “seen mass graves with dead children stacked on top of each other” in Ukraine.

“When men like president Putin start wars, women and children get displaced. Women and children get hurt. Women and children get raped and abused. And women and children die,” she added.

Sima Bahous, director of the UN women's agency, told the security council meeting that a combination of "mass displacement with the large presence of conscripts and mercenaries, and the brutality displayed against Ukrainian civilians, has raised all red flags".

“We are increasingly hearing of rape and sexual violence. These allegations must be independently investigated to ensure justice and accountability,” she added.

Manuel Fontaine, director of emergencies for Unicef, said nearly two-thirds of Ukraine's child population had already been displaced by Russia's invasion.

“They have been forced to leave everything behind: their homes, their schools, and, often, their family members,” he said.

“Of the 3.2 million children estimated to have remained in their homes, nearly half may be at risk of not having enough food. Attacks on water system infrastructure and power outages have left an estimated 1.4 million people without access to water in Ukraine. Another 4.6 million people have only limited access,” he added.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe