Commentary on Political Economy

Monday 4 April 2022


‘Massacre of innocents’: how the papers covered Russia’s atrocities in Bucha

Accusations of war crimes and calls for tougher sanctions feature on Monday’s front pages amid horror at civilian killings by Russian troops

  • Warning: this story contains images some readers may find distressing
UK papers composite featuring the Guardian, the Times, Metro, I, Daily Mail and the Mirror

Revulsion at the atrocities committed by Russian forces in the Ukrainian town of Bucha dominates today’s front pages, as politicians lined up around the world to condemn the massacre of hundreds of civilians.

The Mirror says simply “Genocide” in its headline under the bleak strapline: “Putin’s latest atrocities”. It quotes Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s use of the term but the page is given over to a heartbreaking image from Bucha, just near Ukraine’s capital, where the bodies of civilians were abandoned in the street. Hundreds of civilians have been found in mass graves, it reports, and some had been tied up.

The Guardian carries a scene of destruction in Bucha on its front page, with the headline: “Horror in Bucha: Russia accused of torture and massacre of civilians”. It notes the call for further sanctions and military support from the west in light of the mass killing of unarmed civilians.

The Times has “Civilians shot in the streets” in its headline, and reports many victims had been bound “execution style” after its journalists visited two sites in Bucha. It quotes MI6 head Richard Moore as saying the manner of the killings were “horrifying and chilling”. The paper’s front page contains graphic images.

The i emphasises the point that those killed were civilians with the headline: “Massacre of the innocents”. It notes Boris Johnson’s call to “starve Putin’s war machine”. In a dispatch from Ukraine it also reports on the bleak situation faced by millions with disabilities.

The FT and the Telegraph focus on the issue of sanctions. The FT reports on the prospect of a full oil and fuel embargo, with European Council president Charles Michel saying further sanctions were on their way in the wake of the Bucha massacre. EU diplomats are expected to discuss further measures on Wednesday, it says.

The Telegraph carries no image of the scenes in Ukraine but says the UK and its allies will not rest until Vladimir Putin is held responsible for war crimes in the wake of the scenes in Bucha and also Irpin.

The Daily Mail says the scenes in Ukraine evoke the horrors of the second world war, reporting that the killings had been compared to “the atrocities of the Nazis, and Stalin’s Great Terror”. The headline is “Putin’s stain on humanity”.

Metro quotes Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba for its headline: “Worse than Isis”. It says images from Bucha were too horrific to print, and includes the Kremlin’s assertion that they were “staged”.

The Daily Express frames it in terms of Boris Johnson, with the prime minister’s pledge to “make Putin pay for ‘despicable’ war crimes”. The Sun also notes Johnson’s comments in a side story on its front page.

The Scotsman says: “Russians fleeing Kyiv leave trail of war crimes evidence”, alongside a picture of Ukrainian troops patrolling the destruction through the devastated streets of Bucha.

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