Russian president Vladimir Putin has awarded an honorary title to a brigade widely thought to be responsible for war crimes and mass killings in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.
Earlier this month, the Ukrainian ministry of defense intelligence directorate (SBU) identified the 64th Motor Rifle Brigade as the primary unit responsible for the horrific scenes that saw more than 350 bodies collected in the Kyiv suburb, with almost all of them shot, according to the chief of police of the capital region.
Citing “mass heroism and valor” but making no mention of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the decree Putin signed Monday awarded the 64th Motorized Infantry Brigade the honorary title of Guards.
The honors were bestowed despite Ukrainian intelligence suggesting the brigade has already redeployed to eastern Ukraine to the front lines of the conflict.
Mr Putin’s decree of honors for the brigade was made on the 54th day of Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine, which has forced 12 million people to flee their homes or country and sparked Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War.
The honoring of the “butchers of Bucha”, as the unit has been called, came just one day after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky called for US President Joe Biden to visit his country and declared Ukrainian authorities have “substantial evidence” that Russia’s troops are committing genocide in Ukraine.
It comes as harrowing images show corpses being buried in a mass grave after hundreds of innocent civilians were massacred in the Ukrainian city of Bucha.
Workers could be seen digging plots and erecting crucifixes on the site as distraught family members said goodbye to their loved ones more than a fortnight after the shocking killings took place.
Andrii Holovine, priest of the Church of St. Andrew Pervozvannoho All Saints conducted the funeral on Monday.
Priest Andrii previously said the bodies had been moved to the site after reporting that the rotten corpses were being feasted upon by dogs in apocalyptic scenes.
Images had previously shown the bodies of civilians lining the streets and in shallow graves.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky previously described the scene in Bucha as evidence of “genocide” and “war crimes”, with dead bodies having been “found in barrels, basements, strangled, tortured.”
In an address to Romania’s parliament earlier this month, Mr Zelensky said he fears there are places where even worse atrocities have happened.
“The military tortured people, and we have every reason to believe that there are many more people killed,” he said. “Much more than we know now.”
Boris Johnson later described the events as not “far short of genocide” as the EU’s Ursula von der Leyen was later seen visiting the scene of the massacre.
It comes as the number of heads of state and former prime ministers backing calls for an international tribunal over Ukraine continues to rise amid widespread international condemnation of the unfolding events in Eastern Europe.
International law states a military commander is responsible for any war crimes committed by his troops.
Russia, however, denies targeting civilians in what it calls a special operation to demilitarize Ukraine and eradicate dangerous nationalists. It rejects what Ukraine says is evidence of atrocities, saying Ukraine has staged them to undermine peace talks.
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