Flee now before Russia attacks in the east, Ukraine tells its people
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s foreign minister condemned the killing of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha and called on Wednesday for an independent investigation amid international calls for new sanctions on Russia.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, its troops have repeatedly hit civilian sites with airstrikes and artillery, raising international war crimes concerns.
As Russian forces retreat from the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital, some of the strongest evidence of atrocities emerged this week in the kyiv suburb of Bucha: mass graves and dead civilians in the streets – some corpses with bound hands and gunshot wounds to the head, others apparently mowed down by heavy vehicles.
Following Bucha’s accounts, the EU proposed new sanctions against Russia and several other European states expelled Russian diplomats.
India‘s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar told lawmakers during his parliamentary address on Wednesday that India was “deeply troubled by the reports”.
He said: “Many honorable members (of parliament) have spoken about the incidents, the events in Bucha. We strongly condemn the killings that took place there. This is an extremely serious matter, and we support the call for an independent investigation.
Moscow has since denied targeting civilians, despite overwhelming evidence presented by Ukrainian authorities, international media and rights groups. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said they documented “apparent war crimes” by Russian forces at Bucha and other sites.
India has repeatedly called for an end to violence in Ukraine but has refrained from various UN resolutions on the war as it tries to balance diplomatic relations with the West and Moscow, its main supplier of defense technology.
Neither Jaishankar nor India’s permanent representative to the UN, who also called on Tuesday evening for an independent investigation into the Bucha killings, directly condemned Russia.
Indian officials have also avoided using the terms “invasion” or “war” in reference to Russia’s assault on Ukrainian territory.
“It keeps Russian sensitivities in mind because Russia doesn’t call it a war,” Professor Harsh V. Pant, head of strategic studies at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation, told Arab News.
“From India’s perspective, keeping Russia in good spirits is important for its own operational needs, which are defence,” he said, adding that India wanted to balance the position of another superpower: China.
Relations between India and China have deteriorated significantly since April 2020, when border tensions in the northern Himalayan region of Ladakh led to a continued stalemate and the deployment of tens of thousands of additional troops in the region.
“India wants a communication channel to be opened with Russia,” Pant said. “There are certain things India will have to do to ensure that Russia does not feel completely isolated and marginalized, as that would mean that the Russia-China axis would become even stronger.”
However, he added that recent developments showed a shift in India’s position.
Faced with Western pressure, Jaishankar last week called for respect for the UN charter during a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in New Delhi.
“India is gradually moving towards a position where it says that all countries, including Russia, must abide by the UN Charter, international law and territorial integrity,” Pant said. “Once this massacre unfolded, it was difficult for India to take another position.”