On April 26, Russian president Vladimir Putin met with United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in the Kremlin.
Putin declared that Russia had started its invasion of Ukraine, referred to as “the special operation” by the Russian authorities, to provide military assistance to the People's Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk under Article 51 of the UN Charter.
Putin also invoked the advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice on Kosovo regarding a territory’s right to declare its sovereignty without the central government's consent, writes TASS. As he pointed out, many Western nations recognized Kosovo; similarly, Russia has recognized the DPR and the LPR. He also emphasized that the republics had requested Russia's military assistance.
“A great many states worldwide, including our Western opponents, did this for Kosovo. <...> And we did the same for the Donbas republics. After that, they reached out to us, asking for military assistance to defend themselves from the state that was conducting military operations against them. And we had the right to provide it, in full compliance with Article 51, Chapter VII, of the UN Charter,” said Putin.
He admitted that the situation in Mariupol was dire but said there was no more combat activity in the city. According to his words, over 1,300 Ukrainian military personnel have surrendered in Mariupol. He also told Guterres that humanitarian corridors from Mariupol were in place, and 130,000–140,000 city residents had used them for evacuation. If there are any civilians at Azovstal (the industrial facility used as a stronghold by Ukraine's Azov Regiment), Ukrainian troops must let them out – otherwise, they would be acting as terrorists, insists Putin.
“Indeed, Ukrainian authorities keep saying there are civilians [at Azovstal]. If this is the case, the Ukrainian military is under obligation to let them go. Otherwise, they are no better than terrorists, like ISIS in Syria, using their own population as a human shield,” said Putin. “The easiest thing they can do is to release those people. What could be easier?” argued the Russian president.
Once again, he called the events in Bucha a “provocation”. By his assessment, the Russian-Ukrainian negotiations in Istanbul “resulted in a considerable breakthrough”. “However, after these agreements were achieved and after we managed to demonstrate our commitment to creating favorable conditions for further negotiations – quite clearly, in my opinion – we faced a provocation against us in the community of Bucha. The Russian army had nothing to do with those events,” stated Putin as quoted by TASS. He assured Moscow was aware of “who did it, who staged the provocation, what means were used, and what kind of people were involved”. “As a result, the position of our Ukrainian negotiators on further conflict resolution has taken a drastic turn,” the president pointed out.
On April 24, the Financial Times published a piece detailing why Putin did not see any potential for a peaceful resolution of Russia’s conflict with Ukraine and was turning to the conquest of Ukrainian territories.
The article explains that Putin was seriously considering a peace treaty after a series of military failures on the part of his army. However, as he recently announced to peace process participants, he no longer sees such an opportunity.
Putin pointed out that the peace process had been “deadlocked” after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky had accused Russia of war crimes and the killings of civilians in Bucha, Mariupol, and other cities. According to FT's sources, the Russian president was also furious about losing the flagship of his Black Sea Navy. After the Moskva sunk, signing a peace treaty would have been a “humiliation” for Putin.
Meanwhile, the recovery and exhumation of the bodies of civilian casualties are coming to a close in Bucha. 412 bodies have been found as of April 23, informs Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk, adding that the number is subject to verification. “This implies that one in three civilians killed in the Kyiv region was from Bucha,” underlined Fedoruk.
The world learned about the Bucha massacre on April 2, when journalists and Ukrainian troops entered the town, liberated from the Russian occupation, and saw streets strewn with bodies. Some had their hands tied behind their backs; some had been shot in the back of their heads. The Insider spoke with Bucha residents, who shared accounts of Russian soldiers shooting at random passers-by, robbing houses, and stopping the locals from leaving.
In his statement, Ukrainian presidential advisor Oleksiy Arestovych insisted that the world should be appalled at the events in Bucha, Irpin, and Hostomel in the Kyiv region: “These liberated cities are a picture from a post-apocalyptic horror movie. Among the already found victims of these war crimes committed by Russian troops are raped women whom they tried to burn, murdered representatives of local government, murdered children, murdered elderly people, murdered men.” Many of the victims were found with traces of torture.
By April 19, over 1,000 bodies of killed civilians had been found in the Kyiv region.