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Five important things that happened in Ukraine over the weekend

<i>Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>Bodies lie on a street in Bucha
Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images
Bodies lie on a street in Bucha

By Amy Woodyatt, CNN

It’s been 39 days since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, but the true horrors of the war are only just becoming clear, as shocking images of carnage in the town of Bucha, near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, show civilian bodies littering a street.

Here are five important developments from this weekend.

Mass graves and murdered civilians

Nightmarish scenes of mass graves and murdered civilians are being revealed following the pullback of Russian troops from the greater Kyiv area. In Bucha, northwest of the capital, images show civilian bodies strewn across a road following the Russian withdrawal. CNN reporters observed a mass grave in the town, with the mayor saying up to 300 victims may be buried there.

Though the footage left many lost for words, Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, reacted to the images. “This is genocide,” Zelensky said on Sunday. “The elimination of the whole nation, and the people. We are the citizens of Ukraine. We have more than 100 nationalities. This is about the destruction and extermination of all these nationalities,” he continued.

The scenes have drawn international outrage, with Western leaders calling for war crimes investigations and increasing sanctions on Russia. The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed the extensive footage was “fake,” saying “not a single local resident suffered from any violent actions” during Russia’s occupation of Bucha. US State Department spokesman Ned Price hinted at additional US action against Russia coming “very soon” when asked about Zelensky’s request for greater G7 sanctions in response to the latest atrocities.

HRW documents allege war crimes by Russian forces

Rape, summary executions and unlawful violence are some of the war crimes allegedly perpetrated by Russian forces against civilians in the occupied areas of Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Kyiv regions of Ukraine, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The independent rights group said in a statement Sunday that it has documented allegations of war crimes, which “include a case of repeated rape; two cases of summary execution, one of six men, the other of one man; and other cases of unlawful violence and threats against civilians between February 27 and March 14, 2022.”

“Soldiers were also implicated in looting civilian property, including food, clothing and firewood. Those who carried out these abuses are responsible for war crimes,” it added.

CNN has not independently verified the details of those reports, and has requested comment from the Russian Ministry of Defense regarding the allegations.

“The cases we documented amount to unspeakable, deliberate cruelty and violence against Ukrainian civilians,” Hugh Williamson, HRW’s Europe and Central Asia director, said in the statement. “Rape, murder, and other violent acts against people in the Russian forces’ custody should be investigated as war crimes.”

Odesa under attack

The southern coastal city of Odesa came under attack Sunday, with a local official saying a Russian missile strike had hit “critical infrastructure.” A fuel depot in the city was still burning Monday morning, according to a CNN team on the scene, with one witness telling CNN they heard six explosions at the fuel depot before sunrise.

The coastal city has been a place of relative calm during the Russian invasion and a haven for displaced Ukrainians from areas that have seen the worst fighting. But Odesa has been bracing for a Russian attack for weeks, with the city center full of anti-tank barricades.

“Odesa was attacked from the air. Some of the missiles were downed by our air defense system. In some districts fire has broken out,” the Odesa City Council posted on its official Telegram account.

Russia ramps up attacks in eastern Ukraine

In the light of fierce Ukrainian resistance, US intelligence suggests Russia has revised its invasion strategy to focus on taking control of the Donbas and other regions in eastern Ukraine, with a target date of early May.

Serhiy Haidai, head of the Luhansk regional military administration, said Monday that the Russian military had been gathering a “significant accumulation of troops and military equipment” in the region, in apparent preparation for an offensive push.

“Yes, I can confirm, that there is a significant accumulation of troops and military equipment that is getting prepared for the major breakthrough (in Luhansk region),” he said, speaking on national television.

“There was an attempt of a breakthrough in Rubizhne this night, our defenders repelled an attack. We are holding out, but we do see there’s a major accumulation of troops.”

Leaders in the Russian-backed separatist Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics previously announced a “full mobilization” in the territories under their control.

Haidai said the mobilization was underway, but added that the new recruits were inexperienced and were “being used as cannon fodder.”

The Russian military has said it is pulling back its forces from around Kyiv and the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv to concentrate efforts in the Donbas region.

Two Russia-friendly European leaders set to win re-election

Hungary’s authoritarian leader and longtime Russian ally, Viktor Orban, declared victory in the country’s parliamentary elections, clinching a fourth consecutive term in power.

Orban’s Fidesz party had a commanding lead with 71% of the votes counted, the national elections board said on Sunday evening.

The election campaign was dominated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which put Orban’s lengthy association with Russian President Vladimir Putin under scrutiny. In his victory speech, Orban called Zelensky one of the “opponents” he had to overcome during the campaign. Hungary is heavily reliant on Russian energy and Orban has dodged opportunities to condemn Putin’s assault on its neighboring state, complicating efforts by the European Union (EU) to present a united front against him.

Meanwhile, Serbia’s incumbent President, Aleksandar Vucic, is set to win Sunday’s presidential election with 59.8% of the votes, according to a projection by pollsters Ipsos and CeSID, Reuters reports. The projection is based on a sample of the partial polling station count.

Vucic ran for a second five-year term on a promise of peace and stability just as Russia invaded Ukraine. This has put Serbia under pressure from the West to choose between its traditional ties with Moscow and aspirations to join the EU.

Vucic acknowledged conflict in Ukraine affected the campaign and said Serbia has no plans to deviate from its balancing game between the EU membership bid and close ties with Russia and China, a major investor.

“We will maintain policy that is important for the Europeans, Russians and Americans, and that is … military neutrality,” Reuters reported Vucic as saying.

“Serbia will try to preserve friendly and partnership relations in many areas with the Russian Federation,” he added.

Serbia is almost entirely dependent on Russian gas, and its army maintains ties with Russia’s military. Although Serbia backed two UN resolutions condemning the invasion of Ukraine, it refused to impose sanctions on Moscow, according to Reuters.

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Tara John, Jonny Hallam, Nathan Hodge, Yulia Kesaieva, Rob Picheta and Balint Bardi contributed reporting.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Europe/Mideast/Africa

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