Atrocities in Bucha: how to react?

Moscow's blanket denials of atrocities in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha have sparked widespread outrage. While the West is imposing new sanctions and calls for war crimes trials grow louder, Ukraine is reporting many new civilian casualties in other areas from which the Russian troops have withdrawn. What can and should Europe do to prevent further suffering?

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Jornal de Notícias (PT) /

Accept being poorer

Any discussion about the consequences of the sanctions for Europe is misplaced, writes Jornal de Notícias:

“The catalogue of horrors forces everyone to make difficult decisions. ... The discussion about (gradually) ending imports of Russian coal is insufficient. Stopping Putin's war machine will only be possible if Europe turns off the Russian gas and oil tap (and pressures other partners to do the same). It's true that this will come at a cost. And it can't be the usual suspects (the poorest) who have to pay it. But isn't it worth accepting relative and temporary impoverishment in the name of decency and humanity?” (ES) /

Make concessions to end the madness

A ceasefire should be the top priority now, finds:

“Bucha has revealed the horrors that are undoubtedly happening in many parts of Ukraine. ... Of course, a trial before the International Criminal Court with the signatures of all states is necessary. ... And Putin must be tried for crimes against humanity. ... But what is really necessary and urgent is to end the war. ... We must negotiate and force an immediate ceasefire. This is not just a war between Ukraine and Russia. The US and its key allies must come to the table to end this madness. And make concessions, make concessions today, to be alive tomorrow.”

Avvenire (IT) /

Energy fasting to end the war

Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi supports a boycott of Russian gas. "Do we prefer peace or to have the air conditioner on all summer?" he asked on Wednesday. Avvenire praises these words:

“The question is why this question has not been raised for discussion at the political level. Meanwhile, it was already present on the level of civil society, thanks to municipal 'energy fasting' initiatives among others. ... This is the ideal way to confront the aggressor with decisions aimed at imposing a real and significant 'sanction' in defence of the weak. ... Because otherwise we will continue to finance the aggressor's war while at the same time prolonging it by supplying arms to the attacked nation.” (IE) /

Brutality part of Russia's strategy

Unfortunately, Russia has a history of waging war in this inhumane way, says

“The shelling of apartments all over the country, the destruction of much of the city of Mariupol, the confinement of a large percentage of its citizens, and the systematic shelling of civilian targets all add to the belief that Russia wants to destroy the soul of Ukraine. ...The history of Russian brutality is not confined to Ukraine. One only has to look back at the dreadful killings in Afghanistan, Chechnya and the Second World War for stories of brutal warfare. In recent years, Putin’s forces have also been accused of committing war crimes in Syria.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Not the time for comparisons

It would be best not to draw analogies, says Večernji list:

“We and the Bosnians do not take kindly to the West saying that the worst crime since the Second World War has been committed in Bucha. This gives us the feeling that our victims are being forgotten. ... This feeling of 'neglect' of our victims and suffering is understandable, in the same way that the Jews take offence when other peoples refer to their own suffering as a Holocaust. There is no need to establish a competition of suffering. ... The persistent repetition of war crimes and genocide tactics is clear for all to see. Accordingly, more must be done to punish the criminals. Whether they are petty Balkan dictators or those whose ambassadors sit on the UN Security Council.” (UA) /

Why the Russians are closing their eyes to Bucha

Journalist Alexander Nevzorov explains the Russians' reaction on

“I understand the feelings of Russians who angrily claim that the footage from Bucha is a lie, fake and staged. This is very painful for them. ... These images are turning their world upside down, their belief in their homeland and army, in Putin and the 'rightness' of his war. ... To protect themselves from what is destroying their entire value system, they can only blindly and fanatically deny the facts, with aggressive rhetoric. ... They have been given no choice. They will do anything to avoid learning the truth and to not let it get to them.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

A bitter realisation

The crimes of Bucha may be a political turning point in the Ukraine war, De Volkskrant analyses:

“The realisation that there will be no 'back to normal' with Putin, that there are no quick ways out of the war. We are not at war, not yet, but we are caught up in the most far-reaching and unpredictable conflict in a long time. And with each new atrocity, the realisation grows: if Nato allows the destruction of a European country, there will no longer be a 'European order' to defend. So a lot is at stake.”

Interia (PL) /

Breakdown of our moral framework

For Interia, the atrocities of Bucha mark a turning point in Europe's culture of remembrance:

“On the one hand Bucha is a grim reality of war, but against the backdrop of the last century it also marks a radical shift. The delicate fabric of the common culture of remembrance has been affected. ... Although disturbed by various dramatic events, the long-lasting peace in Europe after 1945 had for decades formed the basis for building up democracy and reconciliation between certain nations. ... That is why now - in 2022 - images from the war of seven decades ago are coming back to us. These crimes, together with the admonition 'Never again', formed the political and moral framework for our world.”

The New Times (RU) /

Our liberator myth is in tatters

Yevgenia Albats, editor-in-chief of The New Times news website, which is blocked in Russia, says Russia is now morally bankrupt:

“It seemed that after February 24 it could sink no lower as a nation that prided itself on having liberated Europe from the brown plague. ... The liberator myth which was an important part of our self-identity and at the root of our national memory - whether or not one supports the regime - has finally been destroyed. We will not forget the images of civilians shot in the streets with their hands tied, nor will the rest of the world forgot them. Even a transparent and comprehensive investigation, the publication of its results and expressions of remorse will not free us from this shame.”

Kurier (AT) /

Put Putin on trial

Those who are now surprised must have had their eyes closed in the past, Kurier reminds readers:

“The women suspected that rapes would be part of the repertoire of atrocities and that mass executions were coming. Ukrainian experts have been warning of this for weeks. We in the West could have listened to the message. ... In Donbass, Putin has allowed a regime of terror since 2014 in which torture was completely normal. In Chechnya he let his soldiers do exactly what the Ukrainians are now experiencing: they looted, raped and murdered. The West has always stood by and done nothing. Europe and the US must therefore not offer Putin another face-saving way out: his next path must lead him directly to The Hague - to the International Criminal Court.”

Berlingske (DK) /

Supply tanks and fighter jets

Berlingske calls for a decisive response from the West:

“We must help gather evidence so that Putin and his henchmen can one day be brought before the International Court of Justice in The Hague. But even that is not enough. Tougher EU sanctions against Russia are needed - we must shut down Russian banks altogether and refuse to pay a single euro or rouble for oil and gas from Russia as long as Russia is at war with Ukraine. ... We must supply more offensive weapons such as tanks, helicopters and fighter jets, as requested by the Ukrainians to save their country. We must not leave the field to barbarism.”

Berliner Zeitung (DE) /

West being drawn into war not an option

The Berliner Zeitung calls for a massive strengthening of the Ukrainians through arms deliveries:

“The Ukrainians must not only be given the means to defend their country and reconquer territories - they must also have the chance to fight for a strong position for their demands in the ongoing negotiations. The weaker the Russian position on the field, the more favourable it is for Ukraine's diplomats. But one thing should be ruled out, no matter what course the war takes: there is no question of the West allowing itself to be drawn into the war. That is not an option - for the sake of global peace.”

Diário de Notícias (PT) /

Strengthen the Russian opposition

Biden was right in insisting that Russian power structures must change, Diário de Notícias comments:

“Certainly it is not a good strategy to seek to change regimes from the outside. But there's nothing wrong with supporting those who want to do so from within. Anyone who has seen the scenes of crimes and horror after the withdrawal of Russian troops from the region around Kyiv can hardly disagree with Biden. 'For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power'.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Nuclear peace guarantee has failed

Nuclear deterrence is becoming a guarantee for Putin's power, warns writer Paolo Giordano in Corriere della Sera:

“The principle of [mutual] deterrence has always worked until proven otherwise. Now the proof of the contrary has arrived, and it is called Ukraine. ... I really can't explain our attitude to this war in any other way: we are allowing a people who are close to us, who are European and whom we would like to help, indeed who deserve to be helped, to be invaded and massacred because we fear a nuclear retaliatory strike. Deterrence has transformed from a guarantee of peace into its opposite: a guarantee of impunity, of the right to aggression and of our own powerlessness.” (UA) /

The true face revealed

Writer Jan Valetov describes why he has lost all faith in the people of Russia on

“The Russian army is a horde that has come to Ukraine to kill, destroy and loot. They throw corpses to the dogs but bring home stolen toilet bowls and electric meat grinders. The second biggest army in the world, made up of looters, rapists, murderers and mercenaries, has shown its true face. ... If 75 percent of the population of a country of 140 million support this war and thus approve of what the Russian army is doing in a neighbouring country, then the Russians are terminally ill and belong behind the Iron Curtain, in a cage, not in the civilised world.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Bucha will remain in the collective memory

Commenting on the disturbing images, Lidové noviny writes:

“The West's reaction to Bucha will be quicker and harsher than to the Serb massacre of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995. ... Even more important will be the symbolic effect. Bucha will remain in the collective memory, where Srebrenica has also found its place. It will be more difficult for the West to refuse Ukraine's requests for help now. And in Ukraine this will complicate future peace talks as well as relations with Russia for decades to come. Also - and especially - because the Russian defence ministry has cynically declared that the images are faked by the Ukrainians and that the Russians would not touch a hair on anyone's head.”

La Stampa (IT) /

The pyramid of violence

Russia expert Anna Zafesova explains the roots of violence in La Stampa:

“If dictatorships last for decades, it is not only because they suppress dissent. They create a pyramid of violence in which everyone accepts being abused by those above them in return for the right to abuse those below them. A kind of top-down chicanery where generals send officers to their deaths without ammunition to satisfy the supreme leader, lieutenants and commanders reward themselves by looting Ukrainian homes, and starving soldiers rape and kill civilians to feel like they are part of the chain of power.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

No negotiations with those who commit genocide

taz newspaper says the accusation of genocide is now hanging in the air:

“The discussion about this is not abstract, but of immediate political relevance. Accusing a government of genocide means that that government has forfeited its legitimacy. You do not shake hands with perpetrators of genocide. They are not negotiating partners. At best, they are brought before a court - and for their direct victims and their descendants it is legitimate to hunt them down across the globe, as is known and practised in Kigali and Jerusalem. If Putin is a perpetrator of genocide, the Russian soldiers in Bucha not only killed Ukrainians. They also dug their own government's grave.”

The Sunday Times (GB) /

War rapists hardly ever convicted

Rapes committed during war almost never have consequences, laments columnist Christina Lamb in The Sunday Times:

“The problem is, no one pays a price. After 20 years of operation the International Criminal Court has secured only one conviction for war rape. In 2000 every member country of the UN, including Russia, voted to pass Resolution 1325, which calls on them to protect women and girls from sexual violence in conflict. Since then the problem has only grown. I can't help thinking it would be different if men were being sexually assaulted by women on a mass scale.”