Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech as he visits the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Amur region, Russia on April 12, 2022.
Evgeny Biyatov | Sputnik | Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his closest ally, President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, on Tuesday unveiled a new theory about who was to blame for the murders, rapes and torture of hundreds of civilians in Bucha, Ukraine, while the city was occupied by Russians. troops.
It was not, they insisted, that the Russian soldiers, as witnesses, satellite images and forensic evidence all suggest, went on a month-long rampage with looting and killing.
The real culprits, Lukashenko claimed without evidence, were British agents conducting a “psychological special operation” in the green suburb of Kiev.
Mr Lukashenko and Mr Putin spoke at a carefully orchestrated news conference at a space launch facility in Vostochny, Russia’s Far East. It was Putin’s first public appearance outside Moscow since Russia launched its brutal invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Mr Lukashenko said he and Mr Putin had discussed in detail “the special psychological operation in Bucha carried out by the British.”
The Belarussian autocrat then told reporters that the Russian Federal Security Agency would provide them with material in support of his seemingly absurd claim.
“If you need addresses, passports, license numbers and marks, what date they arrived in Bucha and how they did it, then the FSB can provide those materials,” Lukashenko said, according to an NBC translation of his remarks.
Putin said Lukashenko had given him “papers” about the killings in Bucha, which he gave to the FSB.
“How, who came to that settlement, and created conditions for organizing this provocation and false, the FSB has relevant interceptions,” he told reporters.
The British embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday on Lukashenko’s allegations.
Putin has previously said the deaths in Bucha were “fake,” and the Kremlin insists the hundreds of bodies discovered were staged there.
But Tuesday seemed to be the first time that Belarus and the Russian security services had both helped advance the claim that Britain was the secret power behind the conspiracy.
Russian troops took control of dozens of cities like Bucha in northern Ukraine during the first weeks of their failed attempt to occupy the capital Kyiv. When it became clear that the Kremlin could not conquer the city, Russian troops withdrew, leaving a trail of carnage and destruction in their wake.
In Bucha alone, more than 400 civilians have been found dead since the Russians withdrew, many of them with signs of execution, rape and torture. Almost from one day to the next, an international consortium gathered to document alleged war crimes, and more than a dozen countries assisted in the process.
Speaking in Vostochny, Putin used both whataboutism and misinformation to try to divert attention away from the atrocities of Russian soldiers.
At one point, he complained that NATO had also caused civilian deaths in combat, suggesting that Western outrage against Russia over civilian deaths in Bucha was hypocritical.
He then compared Bucha to cities in Syria, where Russian-backed President Bashar al Assad used chemical weapons during a civil war in 2013 and later accused rebels of gassing their own supporters to hit Assad.
While Putin and Lukashenko spun complicated conspiracies to try to explain away the atrocities coming out of Syria, the international community this week hardened its determination as more and more evidence emerged of probable war crimes committed by Russian troops.
A few hours after Putin and Lukashenko’s meeting and their bizarre allegations about British agents, President Joe Biden said that the same evidence for him looked somewhat worse than isolated war crimes – it looked like genocide.
“I called it genocide because it has become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to obliterate the idea of being able to be Ukrainian at all,” Biden said late Tuesday night.
“The evidence is rising. It looks different than last week. There is literally more evidence coming out of the terrible things that the Russians have done in Ukraine,” he said.