THE GUARDIAN: President dismisses killing of civilians in Bucha by Russian forces as ‘fake’.
Vladimir Putin has insisted that his bloody campaign in Ukraine will continue until its “noble” goals have been achieved, arguing that the invasion was proceeding as planned, despite fierce Ukrainian resistance and heavy losses among Russian forces.
“We will achieve our objectives, there are no doubts,” Putin told workers at the Vostochny cosmodrome in Russia’s far east, in his first public comments on the war since his forces were forced to retreat from northern Ukraine more than a week ago.
“Its goals are absolutely clear and noble,” Putin said of Russia’s military campaign while standing alongside his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, during a visit to mark the 61st anniversary of the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s first human space flight.
It was only his second public appearance in a week, after a brief appearance at the funeral of the ultranationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, where he made no direct mention of the war. His recent low profile has marked a stark change for a leader who was ubiquitous on Russian television in the early days of the war.
Speaking later at a televised news conference, Putin dismissed Ukrainian testimony that Russian troops had executed civilians in Bucha, comparing the killings to what he claimed were western staged chemical weapons attacks in Syria aimed at incriminating Russia’s ally Bashar al-Assad.
“It’s the same kind of fake in Bucha,” Putin said.
It was not clear whether Putin meant that the images of dead civilians in Bucha were staged or that the civilians had been killed by Ukrainians, two contradicting versions that have been heavily promoted by Russian officials and state media.
Ukraine has accused the Russian military of executing civilians in Bucha, a town outside the capital, Kyiv, that Russian troops occupied for several weeks before withdrawing. Western countries are working with Ukraine in a joint investigation to gather evidence of possible Russian war crimes.