Vladimir Putin‘s spokesman has admitted Russia has suffered ‘significant troop losses’ in its invasion of Ukraine but dismissed claims of war crimes in Bucha and Mariupol as ‘fake’.

Speaking on Sky News, Dmitry Peskov failed to reveal exactly how many Russian soldiers had died but said: ‘We have significant losses of troops. And it’s a huge tragedy for us.’

Russia in late March said it had lost 1,351 soldiers with another 3,825 wounded. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said two days later that at least 10,000 Russian soldiers had probably been killed.

In a wide-ranging interview, Peskov repeatedly refused to admit any wrongdoing on Russia’s part and described footage of war crimes committed by its soldiers as ‘fake’ and ‘lies’. 

He rejected allegations of a massacre in the Ukrainian town of Bucha as ‘a well-staged insinuation’, claiming that bodies found in the streets were placed after Russian troops withdrew.

‘We are living in days of fakes and lies which we meet every day,’ he said, speaking in English by video link from Moscow.

‘We deny the Russian military can have something in common with these atrocities and that dead bodies were shown on the streets of Bucha.’ 

Taking aim at British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, he said: ‘He’s very loud in his rhetorics from the very beginning of the operation. He’s not constructive in his attitude. 

‘We have never heard any any similar rhetoric coming from Boris Johnson during last eight years when people in Donbass were killed by Ukrainian nationalists, when they were heavily bombarded and shelled by heavy artillery. We have never heard a word coming from Mr. Johnson.’ 

Peskov also defended the reasons for Russia’s invasion and described it as a ‘special military operation’ that was necessary because Ukraine has been an ‘anti-Russian centre’ since 2014.

He also revealed that Putin was intending to continue attempts to seize Mariupol, which has faced horrific shelling.

In a wide-ranging interview, Peskov repeatedly refused to admit any wrongdoing on Russia’s part and described footage of war crimes committed by its soldiers as ‘fake’ and ‘lies’

He said: ‘Mariupol is going to be liberated from nationalistic battalions. We hope it is going to happen sooner than later.’

Peskov added that Mariupol is part of the ‘Luhansk people’s republic’ which Russia recognises as a separate state and claimed troops were there ‘to assist those people who were suffering for eight years from heavy shelling from Ukraine’.

One of the more horrific episodes of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine took place on March 9 when the Russian Air Force bombed a maternity hospital in Mariupol, killing at least four people and injuring at least 16, while leading to at least one stillbirth.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described it as a war crime but Peskov today dismissed the report as a ‘fake’.

He said: ‘We have very serious reasons to believe it was a fake, and we insist on that.’

Peskov also refused to comment on the number of Ukrainian civilians killed during Russia’s invasion, warning that figures needed to be ‘double confirmed’. 

The Kremlin spokesman also addressed the issue of Finland joining NATO. 

The Nordic country has been flirting with becoming a member of the transatlantic military alliance, with foreign minister Pekka Haavisto today saying its position will be clarified in the coming weeks.

Peskov said that if Finland and Sweden joined NATO then Russia would have to ‘rebalance the situation’ with its own measures.

He added: ‘We’ll have to make our western flank more sophisticated in terms of ensuring our security.’ 

However, he said Russia would not see such a move as an existential threat, of the kind that might prompt it to consider using nuclear weapons. 

Earlier, a Russian lawmaker warned Finland it faces serious repercussions if it joins NATO, saying it would make it a valid ‘target’ and secure the ‘destruction of their country’. 

The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday suspended Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council over reports of ‘gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights’ by invading Russian troops in Ukraine.

The U.S.-led push won 93 votes in favour to suspend Russia, while 24 countries voted no and 58 countries abstained. A two-thirds majority of voting members – excluding abstentions – was needed to suspend Russia from the 47-member council.

The vote followed allegations that Russian troops systematically executed civilians in Bucha, a town north-west of Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv, and amid other reports of human rights abuses since President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion on Feb. 24.

The heartbreaking story behind one of the war's saddest and most iconic images (pictured) has been uncovered, as Ukrainian authorities continue to count the dead in Bucha. It has been reported that this hand was that of 52-year-old Iryna Filkina, who was killed when a Russian tank gunned her down early last month

The heartbreaking story behind one of the war’s saddest and most iconic images (pictured) has been uncovered, as Ukrainian authorities continue to count the dead in Bucha. It has been reported that this hand was that of 52-year-old Iryna Filkina, who was killed when a Russian tank gunned her down early last month

The hand in the gut-wrenching picture, it turns out, belonged to 52-year-old Iryna Filkina (pictured) - an aspiring makeup artist who posted tutorials to her social media pages. Her red and pink nails can be seen in this photograph she posted online

The hand in the gut-wrenching picture, it turns out, belonged to 52-year-old Iryna Filkina (pictured) – an aspiring makeup artist who posted tutorials to her social media pages. Her red and pink nails can be seen in this photograph she posted online

A Russian tank (left) is shown firing moments after a cyclist (right) turned the corner on the junction. The video, released a couple of days ago, is now thought to show the moment Iryna Filkina was killed in Bucha

A Russian tank (left) is shown firing moments after a cyclist (right) turned the corner on the junction. The video, released a couple of days ago, is now thought to show the moment Iryna Filkina was killed in Bucha

Vladyslava Liubarets, a Bucha resident, walks with her family past destroyed Russian military machinery

Vladyslava Liubarets, a Bucha resident, walks with her family past destroyed Russian military machinery

Civilians inspect the wreckage of a tank in the town of Bucha, the scene of horrific Russian atrocities

Civilians inspect the wreckage of a tank in the town of Bucha, the scene of horrific Russian atrocities

Suspensions from the council are rare. Libya was suspended in 2011 because of violence against protesters by forces loyal to then-leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The resolution adopted by the 193-member General Assembly draft expresses ‘grave concern at the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine,’ particularly at reports of rights abuses by Russia in the town of Bucha and others.

Russia had threatened countries that a yes vote or abstention will be viewed as an ‘unfriendly gesture’ with consequences for bilateral ties.

Reacting to the suspension, Peskov said: ‘We’re sorry about that. And we’ll continue to defend our interests using every possible legal means.’

Ukrainian officials are currently gathering evidence of Russian atrocities in Bucha and other cities, amid signs Moscow’s troops killed people indiscriminately before retreating. 

Ukrainian authorities said the bodies of least 410 civilians were found in towns around Kyiv, victims of what President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said was a Russian campaign of murder, rape, dismemberment and torture.

Some victims had apparently been shot at close range and Some were found with their hands bound.  

Mr Zelensky accused Russia of interfering with an international investigation into possible war crimes by removing bodies and trying to hide other evidence in Bucha, north west of Kyiv.

‘We have information that the Russian troops have changed tactics and are trying to remove the dead people, the dead Ukrainians, from the streets and cellars of territory they occupied,’ he said during his latest video address. ‘This is only an attempt to hide the evidence and nothing more.’

Switching from Ukrainian to Russian, Mr Zelensky urged ordinary Russians ‘to somehow confront the Russian repressive machine’ instead of being ‘equated with the Nazis for the rest of your life’.

He called on Russians to demand an end to the war ‘if you have even a little shame about what the Russian military is doing in Ukraine’. 

Policemen work on the identification process following the killing of civilians in Bucha as audio messages suggest the massacre was part of a deliberate Kremlin strategy

Policemen work on the identification process following the killing of civilians in Bucha as audio messages suggest the massacre was part of a deliberate Kremlin strategy

Smoke is seen rising over civilian areas of Mariupol, which has been almost totally levelled by Russian forces in an attempt to take the city - which has been without water, food or electricity for almost a month

Smoke is seen rising over civilian areas of Mariupol, which has been almost totally levelled by Russian forces in an attempt to take the city – which has been without water, food or electricity for almost a month

Heavily damaged buildings and apartment blocks are seen in a satellite image of Mariupol, where more than 100,000 people are still said to be stranded in conditions likened to a 'hell-scape'

Heavily damaged buildings and apartment blocks are seen in a satellite image of Mariupol, where more than 100,000 people are still said to be stranded in conditions likened to a ‘hell-scape’

Bodies of civilians in plastic bags lay in a mass grave in Bucha city, whose horrors were revealed after it was recaptured by the Ukrainian army

Bodies of civilians in plastic bags lay in a mass grave in Bucha city, whose horrors were revealed after it was recaptured by the Ukrainian army

A satellite image taken of a street in the city of Bucha on March 19 - when Russian forces were in full control of the city - shows dark objects in the road that exactly match where civilian corpses were later discovered by Ukrainian troops

A satellite image taken of a street in the city of Bucha on March 19 – when Russian forces were in full control of the city – shows dark objects in the road that exactly match where civilian corpses were later discovered by Ukrainian troops

Since Bucha, a chorus has resounded at the highest levels of Western political power calling for accountability, prosecution and punishment for war crimes in Ukraine.

On Monday, Zelensky denounced the killings as ‘genocide’ and ‘war crimes,’ and U.S. President Joe Biden said Putin was ‘a war criminal’ who should be brought to trial.

But the path to holding the Russian president and other top leaders criminally responsible is long and complex, international lawyers caution.

‘Certainly, the discovery of bodies which bear signs of executions – such as gunshot wounds to the head – presents strong evidence of war crimes,’ said Clint Williamson, who served as U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues from 2006 to 2009.

‘When victims are found with their hands bound, with blindfolds and bearing signs of torture or sexual assault, an even more compelling case is made. There are no circumstances under which these actions are permitted, whether the victims are civilians or military personnel who had been taken prisoner.’ 

Meanwhile Mariupol remains under siege with 170,000 still trapped in the besieged city where the civilian death toll has risen to 5,000, including 210 children. 

Mariupol has experienced some of the war’s greatest deprivations. Russian forces are fighting street by street to capture the city; doing so would allow Russia to secure a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said more than 5,000 civilians have been killed, including 210 children. British defence officials estimate that 160,000 people remain trapped in the city, which had a prewar population of 430,000.



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