Pope, holding Ukrainian flag, condemns ‘the massacre of Bucha’

Vatican City (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Wednesday condemned “the massacre of Bucha” and held up a Ukrainian flag sent to him from the town where tied bodies shot at close range, a mass grave and other signs of executions were found.

“Recent news from the war in Ukraine, instead of bringing relief and hope, brought new atrocities, such as the massacre of Bucha,” he said at the end of his weekly audience in the Vatican’s auditorium.

“Cruelty that is increasingly horrendous, even against civilians, defenceless women and children. They are victims whose innocent blood cries out up to heaven and implores: ‘Stop this war! Let the weapons fall silent! Stop sowing death and destruction’,” he said.

The Kremlin said on Tuesday that Western allegations Russian forces committed war crimes by executing civilians in Bucha were a “monstrous forgery” aimed at denigrating the Russian army.

“Yesterday, precisely from Bucha, they brought me this flag,” he said, unfolding it and holding it up for the audience of several thousand, which broke into applause. The flag looked darkened and stained and had writing on it.

“It comes from the war, precisely from that martyred city, Bucha,” he said, before asking a group of children war refugees who arrived on Tuesday from Ukraine to come up to him.

“These children had to flee in order to arrive in a safe land. This is the fruit of war. Let’s not forget them and let’s not forget the Ukrainian people,” he said, before giving each child a gift of a chocolate Easter egg.