MUKHACHEVO, Ukraine (Reuters) -Ukraine has found 410 bodies in towns near Kyiv as part of an investigation into possible war crimes by Russia but some witnesses are so traumatised by their ordeal that they are unable to speak, the country’s top prosecutor said on Sunday.
After Russia withdrew from some areas around Kyiv, the mayor in Bucha, a liberated town 37 km (23 miles) northwest of the capital, said that 300 residents had been killed by Russian forces while Chechen fighters controlled the area.
Russia has denied the allegations that it troops killed civilians in Bucha. Moscow says no residents suffered from any violence from Russian forces and accused Kyiv of staging what it cast as a provocation confected for Western media.
Ukrainian prosecutors were only able to enter the towns of Bucha, Irpin and Hostomel for the first time on Sunday and they need more time to work out the extent of the crimes, Prosecutor General Iryna Venedyktova said.
“We need to work with witnesses,” Venedyktova said.
“People today are so stressed that they are physically unable to speak.”
She said 140 of the bodies had been examined so far but that she would be asking the health ministry to provide as many forensic experts as possible to a field hospital in Kyiv region.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said: “Hundreds of people were killed. Tortured, executed civilians. Corpses on the streets. Mined areas. Even the bodies of the dead were mined.”
Zelenskiy said it was clear the West would impose a new set of sanctions on Russia, but he said that was not enough.
Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskiy said it was clear hundreds of civilians had been killed, but that he did not want to say exactly how many there were, as efforts were still under way to clear mines in the area.
“Many local residents are considered missing. We cannot give an exact figure, but there are a lot of people,” he said.
(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)