Human Rights Watch’s Kenneth Roth told CNN on Monday that the photographs of mass graves surfacing from Ukraine’s Bucha are “sickening,” and that they “could be replicated on a very large scale.”

“What is happening in Bucha and other cities around Kyiv could be replicated on a very large scale. And so the message we’re trying to send to the Kremlin is that, here’s the evidence of these atrocities taking place. If you want to avoid criminal responsibility, reign in your troops,” Roth told CNN in an interview.    

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The International Criminal Court has already opened an inquiry into war crimes in Ukraine, but Roth highlighted that it is “it’s urgent to move as quickly as possible” to reduce the quantity of evidence lost.

“From a war crimes perspective … it’s not enough to just have a body. You need to figure out, why did that person die? In some cases, we’re getting accounts of people who were bound, who were executed. That’s a clear war crime. But if somebody was killed in crossfire, you need to look more carefully. Some of these conceivably could have been soldiers, either Ukrainian or Russia. So you really need to investigate,” he added.  

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US President Joe Biden termed the alleged atrocities committed by Russian forces in Bucha a “war crime” and demanded that Russian President Vladimir Putin be tried. He did not, however, call the massacres “genocide.”

In reaction to Biden’s statements, Roth stated that we should not dismiss what is happening in Bucha simply because it does not constitute genocide.

“A war crime is serious enough. Some people are conflating language and saying this is genocide. We haven’t seen genocide yet. I hope we don’t get to that in Ukraine,” he said.  

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When asked if Putin could be held personally responsible for the alleged war crimes, Roth confirmed, “In principle, yes”.  

“What needs to be proven is that he was aware these crimes were taken place. I suspect that can be proven, and that he didn’t take steps to reign them in, to stop them,” he concluded.