China calls for investigation into the Bucha killings, and assigns no blame

BEIJING (AP) – China said on Wednesday that images of civilian deaths in the Ukrainian city of Bucha are “deeply disturbing”, but that no blame should be shared until all the facts are known.

New evidence of what appeared to be widespread civilian massacres in the wake of Russian withdrawals from the Kyiv territories could complicate Beijing’s attempts to guide public opinion on the conflict, with China refusing to criticize Moscow.

China supports all initiatives and measures “helping to alleviate the humanitarian crisis” in the country and is “ready to continue working with the international community to prevent any harm to civilians,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters at a daily briefing.

“The truth and cause of the incident need to be verified,” Zhao said. “All parties should exercise restraint and avoid unjustified accusations before drawing a conclusion of the investigation.”

Zhao’s remarks repeat those of China’s ambassador to the UN, Zhang Jun, who earlier called for an inquiry and who also described the reports and images of civilian deaths in Bucha as “deeply disturbing.”

“The relevant circumstances and specific causes of the incident should be verified and determined,” Zhang said in comments to the Security Council on Tuesday, adding that “before the full picture is clear, all sides should exercise restraint and avoid unfounded allegations.”

China has called for negotiations while refusing to criticize Russia. It opposes economic sanctions against Moscow and blames Washington and NATO for provoking the war and fueling the conflict by sending weapons to Ukraine.

The completely ruling Communist Party-controlled media has largely stuck to a pro-Moscow narrative, including repetition of Russian disinformation and unfounded conspiracy theories on topics such as alleged US-Ukrainian bioweapot production.

Zhao reiterated China’s objections to sanctions, accusing the United States of manipulating the situation to “profit from the chaos and make a lot of money.”

“History and reality have proven that sanctions do not bring peace and security, but only bring losses or more losses, adding to the already difficult world economy and affecting the existing world economic system,” Zhao said.

The hashtag “China expresses Bucha death to be thoroughly investigated” was a popular topic on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, with nearly 30 million views and more than 500 discussions on Wednesday afternoon

Despite the pro-Russian stance of authorities who regularly censor postings, opinions were divided between support for Moscow, demands for Russia to be held accountable, accusations of infidelity to the West and Ukraine and calls for an impartial inquiry.

“This is just a play staged by the Americans and Ukrainian Nazis in an attempt to divert public opinion, but people in the world with eyes and hearts will not ignore the fact that the United States and Ukraine are researching bioweapons,” read a post. signed “Understand the Cold War better than America.”

The Russian embassy in Beijing also used the platform to deny the allegations, while its Ukrainian counterpart drew attention to “Russian war crimes against civilians in Irpin”, another city where atrocities allegedly took place.

Prior to the war on February 24, China had rejected talk of a Russian invasion as “fake news” and American fear-mongering. Since then, China has claimed to hold on to an independent and often contradictory stance, claiming the sanctity of borders and national sovereignty, while refusing to condemn Russian aggression or even use the words “war” and “invasion” in obvious respect for Moscow.

The Global Times, a nationalist tabloid published by the Communist Party’s mouthpiece People’s Daily, sought to balance the competing messages with an editorial Wednesday titled “‘Bucha incident’ not to be used as a pretext for an inflammatory situation.”

“As long as Russia and Ukraine can not achieve a ceasefire, humanitarian tragedies will not end,” the newspaper said.

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