The Embassy of the Russian Federation in Ireland has dismissed allegations of war crimes committed by the Russian Army in Bucha as "another stage in the disinformation war against Russia."
The bodies of 410 civilians were found in Bucha and other towns around the capital Kyiv, according to Ukrainian officials, after they were recaptured from Russian forces in recent days.
Footage and photos have emerged appearing to show the bodies. Sightings of bodies have been confirmed by independent journalists on the ground in Ukraine.
International reaction to the allegations has been strong, with US President Joe Biden calling for a war crimes trial against Russia President Vladimir Putin and Germany expelling 40 Russian diplomats.
In a statement this evening, the Russian Embassy in Ireland said it "categorically rejects" the allegations and suggested the images were staged.
It said in a statement: “The Russian Federation categorically rejects any allegations of the Russia Armed Forces involvement in the killing of civilians in the Kiev suburb of Bucha. There are no facts to prove such allegations.
“To the contrary, according to the Ministry of Defence of Russia, its military units have left Bucha on March 30th and there has not been a single incident of violence against the people [of] Bucha during their stay in it.
— Russia in Ireland (@Rus_Emb_Ireland) April 4, 2022
It continued: “The reports of the ‘massacre’ appeared four days later, after Ukrainian forces have moved into Bucha. There are numerous independent assessments of these reports, which indicate its staged nature...
“In the current political circumstances, judging by the simultaneous public statements by the EU and US officials made right at the moment of the release of the anti-Russian allegations in favour of imposing new sanctions against Russia, we are clearly witnessing yet another stage in the disinformation war against Russia.”
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has visited Bucha, calling Russian actions there “genocide” and urging the West to apply tougher sanctions against Russia.
Taoiseach condemns atrocities
The Irish Government is pushing for tougher international sanctions against Russia, as the Taoiseach condemned “in the strongest possible terms” atrocities and civilian deaths in Ukraine.
Micheál Martin said that “nothing can be ruled out” in Ireland’s response to the “appalling and barbaric” crimes committed by Russian troops in Ukraine.
“I would rule nothing out in terms of how we respond, and I think Europe is repulsed by this,” Mr Martin said in Dublin on Monday. “We have seen this before, we didn’t think we would see it again.
“There is no justification for this war and without question, from my perspective, the Russian Federation and Putin has put himself beyond the pale.”
Mr Martin added: “We would support further sanctions given the appalling and barbaric crimes committed by Russian Federation troops in Ukraine, particularly in Kyiv and Bucha and other towns, where we see innocent civilians murdered, with their hands tied behind their backs.”
Civilians have been slaughtered, tortured, and in some cases, raped before being killed
“We can’t be blind in the first instance to the appalling human trauma and death that is being visited on the people of Ukraine and every conceivable pressure that we can has to be put on Russia, to stop this war and stop this attack on humanity.”
Earlier, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said he spoke to his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba about the atrocities uncovered in recent days.
Mr Coveney said he believes a war crime has been committed in Bucha and called for the incident to be investigated by the International Criminal Court.
“(Mr Kuleba) was quite graphic in terms of his description of what he’d seen and witnessed in Bucha, which is a town on the outskirts of Kyiv, where civilians have been slaughtered, tortured, and in some cases, raped before being killed.
“It was a very sobering conversation, with pretty shocking accounts of brutality and what I think can only be described as war crimes.”
Amid the reports of 410 bodies from Ukrainian officials, Associated Press (AP) journalists saw 21 bodies in various locations in Bucha, including a group of nine in civilian clothes who appeared to have been shot at close range.
At least two had their hands tied behind their backs.
In Motyzhyn, to the west of Kyiv, AP journalists saw the bodies of four people who appeared to have been shot at close range and thrown into a pit.
Residents said the mayor, her son, and her husband — who had been bound and blindfolded — were among them.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a tweet on Monday the European Union “is ready” to send investigators to Ukraine to help the local prosecutor general “document war crimes”.
The US and more than 40 other countries are working together to investigate possible violations and abuses after the passage of a resolution by the United Nations Human Rights Council to establish a commission of inquiry.
There is another probe by the International Criminal Court, an independent body based in the Netherlands.