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Russia’s actions appear to be war crimes, says EU’s von der Leyen

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission said Saturday that Russian forces appear to have committed war crimes targeting civilians in Ukraine, but she said lawyers must investigate alleged incidents.

Leaving Ukraine after a visit, she says she saw with her own eyes Friday the destruction in the city of Bucha near Kyiv. A forensic team has started exhume a mass grave Friday containing the bodies of civilians who local officials say were killed while the Russians occupied the town.

“My instinct tells me: if this is not a war crime, what is a war crime? But I am a doctor by training and lawyers must investigate carefully,” he added. . Von der Leyen told reporters aboard a train leaving Ukraine on Saturday. “I saw the pictures that (Ukrainian Prime Minister) Denys Shmyhal showed me: killing people as they passed. We could also see with our own eyes that the destruction of the city is targeted at the lives of civilians. Residential buildings are not military targets,” she said, referring to Bucha.

Moscow has dismissed war crimes allegations from Ukraine and Western nations and denied targeting civilians in what the Kremlin calls a “special military operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” its neighbor. The Kremlin said on Tuesday that allegations that Russian forces executed civilians in Bucha were a “monstrous fake” aimed at denigrating the Russian military.

Von der Leyen said the EU was working with Ukraine as part of a joint investigation team to collect evidence of possible war crimes for use in future court cases. “It is extremely important that it is well documented, to avoid defeats in court because the evidence is not good enough”, Von der Leyen mentioned. The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khansaid last month that he had opened an investigation into possible war crimes in Ukraine.

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