G7 countries condemn Russian 'massacres' in devastated Ukrainian city of Bucha

Diplomatic pressure on Russia continues to mount, as ITV News US Correspondent Emma Murphy reports

Foreign ministers from some of the world's biggest economies have condemned Russian "massacres" in the Ukrainian city of Bucha, while warning they will keep ramping up sanctions on Moscow until it pulls out of Ukraine.

In a joint statement on Thursday, ministers from the G7 (Group of Seven) spoke of "haunting" photographs of mutilated bodies, alleged executions and reports of sexual assaults at the hands of Russian troops.

Meeting on the sidelines of NATO talks in Brussels, the G7 officials said they “are taking further steps to expedite plans to reduce our reliance on Russian energy, and will work together to this end”.

Their counterpart, Ukraine's Dmytro Kuleba, also engaged in Thursday's talks, ahead of a key vote on whether to expel Russia from the UN's Human Rights Council.

He pleaded with Ukraine's western allies for "weapons, weapons, weapons", in a bid in order to bolster defence in the east of the nation, where Ukrainian forces are bracing for a new offensive in this region. Residents there have been urged to escape while they can.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a similar appeal on for weapons on Thursday, telling the Greek parliament his country needs anti-aircraft defense systems, artillery systems, munitions and armored vehicles to hold Russia’s invasion at bay.

And in a separate video message, the leader accused the Kremlin of trying to hide evidence of civilian killings in Russian occupied areas.

The Ukrainian president claimed Moscow has "changed tactics" in a bid to interfere with an international investigation into war crimes, as Ukrainian officials continue to gather evidence of Russian atrocities in Bucha and other areas on the outskirts of Kyiv.

A Ukrainian serviceman walks amid destroyed Russian tanks in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv Credit: AP

Today's key developments so far:

  • Ukraine braces for a new Russian offensive in the east, with officials urging residents in the Donbas to evacuate immediately

  • Fresh Ukrainian pleas for "weapons, weapons, weapons" at NATO and G7 foreign ministers meeting in Brussels

  • The UN is to vote on Thursday to expel Russia from its human rights council over allegations soldiers killed Ukrainian civilians as they retreated from the Kyiv area

  • President Zelenskyy says a new raft of international sanctions against the Kremlin aren't strong enough and give Russian invaders "permission" to "launch new bloodshed" in the east

  • The mayor of Mariupol says 5,000 civilians have been killed in the city and accuses Russia of using "mobile crematoriums" to "cover their tracks"

  • The Ukrainian president claims Russia has changed tactics and is removing bodies before they leave occupied areas to hide evidence amid an international war crimes investigation

The mayor of Mariupol also accused Russian troops of using mobile crematoriums to burn the bodies of civilians in the besieged city in a bid to "cover their tracks".

Mayor Vadym Boichenko said more than 5,000 have been killed in the city. Of those, 210 were children.

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"The killers are covering their tracks. Russian mobile crematoriums have started operating in Mariupol," said the mayor in a statement on the city council's Telegram account.

He claimed Russia "ordered the destruction of any evidence of crimes committed by its army in Mariupol", following global revulsion over videos and photos of streets in the town of Bucha strewn with corpses of what appeared to be civilians.

The mayor also claimed Russian forces bombed hospitals, including one where 50 people burned to death.

People flee the city of Mariupol where 5,000 have been killed, said the city's mayor Credit: AP

The UN General Assembly will vote on Thursday to suspend Russia from the world organisation's leading human rights body over allegations soldiers killed civilians while retreating from the region around Ukraine’s capital.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield made the call for Russia to be stripped of its seat calling its participation in the council a "farce".

Russia has vehemently denied its troops were responsible for the killings around Kyiv's suburbs.

A journalist stands next to a mass grave in Bucha Credit: AP

After Russia's six-week old invasion failed to seize Ukraine's capital quickly, its focus is now on its industrial heartland of the Donbas - a mostly Russian speaking region in eastern Ukraine.

“My agenda is very simple… it’s weapons, weapons and weapons,” Mr Kuleba said as he arrived at NATO headquarters for talks with the military organisation’s foreign ministers on Thursday.

“The more weapons we get and the sooner they arrive in Ukraine, the more human lives will be saved."

Adding pressure to the international community for help, President Zelenskyy said in his video address that the west's fresh round of sanctions aren't strong enough and give Russian invaders "permission" to "launch new bloodshed" in the east.

Several apartment buildings were destroyed in the Russian shelling in Borodyanka, on the outskirts of Kyiv Credit: AP

"If there is no painful package of sanctions against Russia and if there is no real supply of necessary weapons that we have asked for many times, then Russia will see it as the permission to go further, to attack, to launch a new bloodshed in the Donbas," he said.

Some NATO nations worry they may be Russia’s next target, but the alliance is striving to avoid actions that might pull any of its 30 members directly into the war.

Still, the alliance's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged member nations to send Ukraine more weapons - and not just defensive arms.

“Ukraine is fighting a defensive war, so this distinction between offensive and defensive weapons doesn’t actually have any real meaning," he said.

Growing numbers of Putin’s troops, along with mercenaries, have been reported moving into the Donbas, where Russia-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian forces for eight years and control two areas.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk urged civilians to evacuate to safer regions before it was too late.

“Later, people will come under fire, and we won’t be able to do anything to help them," Ms Vereshchuk said.