During the Knowledge (Znanie) Society marathon Vladimir Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov said:
«The most terrible thing is probably what we have seen in terms of this monstrous information war – the stream of lies, fake news, stage productions, sometimes as monstrous as the human mind can possibly imagine. Take, for example, the brilliantly executed and gory stage production in Bucha near Kiev. It is clear that Ukrainian specialists could hardly have worked in such a highly professional way, they had an army of entities - PR companies, TV companies, information advisers, information warfare specialists working for them. <...>
But this, of course, has never happened in my life; I never imagined such a thing could really happen. <...> Of course, we need an impartial and independent investigation that will bring all this situation and all this tragedy to light.»
Peskov is absolutely right about one thing: Ukrainian specialists could not have staged such an event on their own. And no one else could.
Peskov did not explain what he called a stage production: the mass murders or the claim that the civilians of Bucha were killed by the Russian military. But it is an undeniable fact that the monstrous massacre did happen. The dead civilians have been identified. On 8 April, a week after the liberation of Bucha from the Russian invaders, Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk reported that 163 dead bodies had been identified; after that the identification of the corpses continued.
Could the Ukrainians themselves have committed this crime in order to attribute it to Russian troops? It is known that the invaders seized Bucha by March 8 and abandoned it on March 31. The satellite images produced by Maxar Technologies show that mass graves first appeared in Bucha on March 10, and the images taken on March 19 clearly show dead bodies lying in the street. That is where the Ukrainian troops, who had liberated Bucha, found them. Many of the dead had their hands tied behind their backs.
Later, the pro-Kremlin Telegram channel Cemetery of Fakes posted a video fragment which showed Ukrainian soldiers allegedly arranging corpses on the road in Bucha, dragging them by a rope. Yet the journalists of Kazakhstan's Factcheck.kz found out that the video had been shot by an Associated Press correspondent and actually depicted soldiers removing the bodies from the road after the liberation of Bucha, using the ropes to check whether they were mined.
The Russian Defense Ministry via its Telegram channel claimed that a video shot shortly after the liberation of Bucha showed one of the corpses lying in the street move its arm. As it turned out, the illusion of movement was caused by a raindrop running down the windshield of the car from which the video was taken.
German intelligence officers intercepted telephone conversations of Russian servicemen discussing the murders in Bucha. In particular, in one of the conversations a cyclist who had been shot dead was mentioned. The video, captured by a Ukrainian drone, shows the killing of a cyclist, probably the one mentioned in the conversation.
Finally, there are testimonies from Bucha survivors who witnessed the massacre.
Thus, in order to set up the «stage production» of which Peskov spoke, it would have been necessary to kill hundreds of residents immediately after the liberation of Bucha, compel other residents to give false testimony, falsify the audio recordings of negotiations intercepted by German intelligence, publish the fake news in Der Spiegel, and somehow convince Maxar, a satellite imagery provider, to change the date of the images.
The Bucha massacre is not the only criminal episode in the war, there were mass murders in Irpin and Borodyanka as well, not to mention the destruction of Mariupol, where, among other buildings, a maternity hospital and a theater were bombed; the latter's basement was used by local residents as a bomb shelter. Was all this done just to accuse Russia of war crimes? It is unlikely that even Peskov can seriously consider a provocation of such magnitude possible.
As a matter of fact, his speech contained another phrase that is impossible to disagree with:
«Of course, we need an impartial and independent investigation that will bring all this situation and all this tragedy to light.»
However, on April 19, Peter Ilyichev, director of the Foreign Ministry's department of international organizations, said Russia would not be an initiator of a UN investigation into the events in Ukraine. But in the case of Bucha, Russia's say-so is not necessary: the city is under Ukrainian control again, French forensic pathologists and experts are working there, and an international Ukrainian-Polish-Lithuanian investigative team, assisted by the EU Commissioner for Justice, is involved. The European Commission has offered financial support for the investigation of war crimes in Ukraine, and Germany has allocated €1 million to the International Criminal Court for the investigative actions in Ukraine.