Earlier, the German government had found satellite images from last month that provided strong counterevidence against Russian denials of involvement in civilian deaths in the Ukrainian town of Bucha
Amid loud Russian denials about the massacre in Bucha of over 400 civilians, Germany’s news agency DER SPIEGEL has learned that the BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst, Germany’s foreign intelligence service) intercepted Russian military radio traffic in which the murder of civilians in Bucha was discussed.
It has also claimed that some of the intercepted radio traffic “can be directly linked” to dead bodies that have been photographed in Bucha.
DER SPIEGEL reported that the BND briefed parliamentarians on Wednesday about its findings. Some of the intercepted traffic apparently matches the locations of bodies found along the main road through town. In one of them, a soldier apparently told another that they had just shot a person on a bicycle. It corresponds to the photo of the dead body lying next to a bicycle that has been shared around the world. In another intercepted conversation, a man apparently said: “First you interrogate soldiers, then you shoot them”.
This also corresponds to a report by New York Times, which states a new video has surfaced that shows a cyclist moving along a street in Bucha, dismounting and walking a bicycle around the corner onto a street occupied by Russian soldiers. As soon as the cyclist rounds the turn, a Russian armored vehicle fires several high-caliber rounds along the thoroughfare. A second armored vehicle fires two rounds in the direction of the cyclist. A plume of dust and smoke rises from the scene.
“The video is aerial footage recorded by Ukraine’s military in early March when Russian forces still held the town. It has been independently verified by The New York Times,” says the report by the news agency.
The BND material also apparently provides evidence that members of the Russian mercenary unit called the Wagner Group played a leading role in the atrocities. The group is known to have perpetrated similar atrocities in Syria.
Eyewitnesses recently reported that the occupying force in Bucha was initially made up of “young soldiers.” Once they were replaced by other units, the witnesses said, the attacks on civilians grew more frequent. Some eyewitnesses have said that Chechen units were in the town. The accounts raise the question as to whether this progression was part of the occupation plan.
DER SPIEGEL said that more intercepted radio traffic is currently being analyzed, though it is apparently difficult to precisely localise some of the audio. Some of the recordings apparently indicate that incidents such as those in Bucha have also taken place elsewhere. There are reportedly indications of potential atrocities in the area surrounding Mariupol, the large city in southern Ukraine that has been besieged by the Russian military.
The Bucha Massacre
At the beginning of April dozens of corpses in civilian clothes were discovered in Bucha, on the northwestern gates of the Ukrainian capital, in the streets or in mass graves, following the Russian withdrawal. Images from the city sent shockwaves across the world, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky calling the killings “genocide”.
But the Russians have remained steadfast in their denial of the massacre, claiming that the images emerging from Bucha and other towns are fakes produced by Ukrainian forces, or that the deaths occurred after Russian soldiers pulled out.
The news of the interception of the Russian military radio traffic comes after the German government said on Wednesday that satellite pictures from last month provided strong counterevidence against Russian denials of involvement in civilian deaths in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.
Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit told reporters that the “evaluation of satellite images” led Berlin to conclude that “Russian declarations” that images of civilian deaths “were posed scenes or that they were not responsible for the murders are in our view not tenable”.
He said that images at Berlin’s disposal covered the period from 10-18 March and “led to the conclusion that the victims whose images we all saw were lying there since at least 10 March”.
“Reliable evidence shows that Russian fighting and security forces were deployed in this area from 7 March until the 30,” he said.
“They were involved in the interrogation of prisoners who were later executed. That is the information we have,” Hebestreit said, adding, “targeted killings by Russian armed forces are evidence that the Russian president and commander in chief (Vladimir) Putin at the least tacitly approved of human rights violations and war crimes”.
World powers, including the US, has called for Russia to be tried for war crimes.
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