By Dong Zhengzong and Wang Zhongkui
The Ukrainian side on April 3 accused Russian soldiers of killing hundreds of civilians in the small town of Bucha, northwest of Kiev. According to videos and photos released by Ukrainian media, a large number of civilians were killed in the town. Major media outlets in western countries immediately followed suit, lining up in support of the Ukrainian accusation. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the accusations against Russia over the situation in Bucha “a well-staged tragic show”. "It's a well-established show. Nothing else, it is a tragic show," Peskov said，"This is a fraud committed in an attempt to tarnish the Russian army."
Alarming as it is, but any accusation should be based on facts, the top priority is to find out the truth and causes of the incident as soon as possible, to clarify the many doubts surrounding the incident.
Doubt 1. The Russian Defense Ministry stated on April 3 that Russian troops completely withdrew from Bucha on March 30, and that the pictures and videos emerged on the fourth day after the withdrawal of Russian troops and when relevant SBU personnel returned to the town. At a press conference at the UN headquarters in New York, Russian Permanent Representative Nebenja presented some evidence, including a video released by Bucha Mayor Anatoly Fedoruk on March 31, in which Fedoruk did not mention a single word about "Russian troops killing civilians". Nebenja also showed a video taken by the Ukrainian National Guard on April 2 in Bucha, which didn’t show anybody killed on the streets. After the withdrawal of Russian troops from the town on March 30, Bucha Mayor Anatoly Fedoruk was interviewed with a smile on his face, "The Russian troops finally pulled out!" It is unreasonable for him to smile and say nothing with a horrific killing in his town. Moreover, Bucha is not a big city and the people did not flee away but continued to live in there, so it is unlikely that the bodies of fellow neighbors were left lying in the street for up to three weeks without doing anything at all.
Doubt 2. At the very beginning of the special military operation in Ukraine, Russian President Putin explicitly ordered his soldiers not to target civilians. From the news covered so far, Russian troops withdrew from the vicinity of Kiev as early as March 30, and the shooting of civilians in Bucha popped up a week later. Russian Defense Ministry announced the completion of the first phase of the special military operation, and they didn’t need to do this to tarnish their image of maintaining restraint in the previous 30+ days. Russian troops withdrew from the vicinity of Kiev on their own initiative, and even if they had done it, as the western media accused, they should have had plenty of time to eliminate as much as they can so as not to leave others such an excuse to be blamed.
Doubt 3. The communication network in Ukraine has not been disrupted and the local people could post pictures and videos about the fighting online. If Russian troops had indeed committed this incident, it should have been exposed to the public ever since it was done. There has not been anything about the incident from the war correspondents, so a deliberate effort is more likely to discredit the Russian troops of committing war crimes in violation of humanitarian law. According to high-resolution satellite photos taken over Bucha since mid-March, released by the American company Maxar Technologies, many bodies had been there for at least three weeks. It seems unreasonable that hundreds of bodies were on the streets of the small town for almost 20 days without being noticed by so many war correspondents and local people.
Doubt 4. It is common knowledge to all that within 24 hours of death, the corpse stiffens, necrotic spots emerge and the bloods from the wounds coagulate. However, the "corpses" in the video have not stiffened, without necrotic spots, and the blood from the wounds has not coagulated. Therefore, they don’t seem to have been killed for several weeks but more likely to result from recent killings. Moreover, netizens noticed that some of the “corpses” in the video hadn’t bled at all, and some even seemed to be still shaking slightly. The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that the so-called evidence of crime in the city of Bucha emerged on April 3, four days after the withdrawal of Russian troops, and after the arrival of Ukrainian troops and Ukrainian media. The Russian Defense Ministry believed that these photos and videos from Bucha were directed by the Ukrainian government and Western media, and yet another act of provocation by the Ukrainian government. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zakharova made it clear that the Bucha incident was a staged show according to the pictures from Russian satellites. Recently, Ilya Kiva, a Ukrainian MP, revealed that the Bucha incident was staged and that the real mastermind behind was not Ukraine, but UK MI6.
Doubt 5. Immediately after the incident, Russia proposed an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to investigate the matter, only to be rejected twice by UK, the presidency of the Council. Since there were allegations of mass killing of civilians in Ukraine and all parties were highly concerned, it seems more logical to gather evidence from both sides and find out the truth than turn down the Russian proposal of holding an impartial investigation as early as possible. Thus, the pictures and videos had been quickly circulated in the western media whereas Russia was denied the opportunity to explain, seemingly creating the background in favor of the west to suspend Russia's membership in the UN Human Rights Council held on the 7th of April. As Li Haidong, a professor from the Institute of International Relations at the China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing, told the Global Times, "it seems like the US-led Western countries can't wait for the investigation and desperately want to add more sanctions toward Russia and pull the hard-won positive progress back to tensions and conflicts”.
On the one hand, the incident has not been thoroughly investigated, and on the other hand, a diplomatic war against Russia has been on the rise, threatening to impose more sanctions in the financial and energy sectors, leading to an escalation of the situation, which is by no means conducive to achieving peace through negotiations. "The relevant circumstances and specific causes of the incident should be verified and established. Any accusations should be based on facts. Before the full picture is clear, all sides should exercise restraint and avoid unfounded accusations," China's permanent representative to the UN Zhang Jun said. De-escalation and putting an early end to the conflict in Ukraine is the earnest expectation of the international community and the strong desire of China. Dialogue and negotiation is the only way leading to the door for peace. China supports all initiatives and measures conducive to alleviating the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and stands ready to continue working with the international community to prevent harm to civilians.
（The authors are with the National University of Defense Technology of Chinese PLA）
Editor's note: The authors are with the National University of Defense Technology of Chinese PLA. The article reflects the authors' opinions and not necessarily those of China Military.