On November 29, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova commented on an interview aired on Ukrainian television with David Arakhamia, the parliamentary leader of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party.
Zakharova claimed that Arakhamia said in the interview that Boris Johnson, during a visit to Kyiv in April 2022 while he was still British prime minister, forced Ukraine not to sign a peace treaty with Russia. That, Zakharova added, “convincingly” shows that Ukraine staged the March 2022 massacre of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha to “disrupt” the Russia-Ukraine talks then taking place in Turkey:
“We noticed what was said on November 25 this year in an interview with the ‘1+1’ TV channel by the head of the faction of the pro-presidential party ‘Servant of the People’ in the Verkhovna Rada, D. G. Arakhamia, that it was former British Prime Minister B. Johnson who forbade Kyiv from signing a peace agreement with Russia following negotiations in Istanbul at the end of March 2022 and demanded the continuation of hostilities against Russia ...These revelations by D.G. Arakhamia convincingly indicate that the staging in Bucha was organized by Kyiv as a pretext to disrupt the negotiation process.”
Zakharova’s characterization of Arakhamia’s comments and the Bucha massacre are misleading.
Western independent media outlets and Ukrainian authorities exhaustively investigated the March 2022 massacre in the town of Bucha outside the capital Kyiv and concluded that it was carried out by Russian troops.
Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Negotiations between Russia and Ukraine began a few days later, and were held first in Belarus, then in Istanbul, and have been suspended since May 2022.
In his TV interview, Arakhamia, who led the Ukrainian delegation at the peace talks with Russia in Belarus and Turkey in 2022, revealed that in the spring of 2022, Russia proposed a deal under which it would end its war against Ukraine if Ukraine dropped its plans to join NATO and declared neutrality:
“They were prepared to end the war if we agreed to – as Finland once did – neutrality, and committed that we would not join NATO,” Arakhamia said in the interview.
However, he noted that Ukraine’s NATO aspirations are written in its Constitution, which would have to be amended if its NATO bid were abandoned. He also said that Ukraine did not trust Russia to stick to such an agreement:
“There is no, and there was no, trust in the Russians that they would do it. This could only be done if there were security guarantees.”
Arakhamia did say that Johnson, during his trip to Kyiv in early April 2022, told Ukraine’s leadership it should “not sign anything with them at all, and let's just fight." However, he indicated that Johnson’s advice was just that, not an order, and that Ukraine’s negotiations with Russa were “not managed in any way” by the U.S. or other Western governments:
“[W]e consulted, of course - we understood that we cannot win the war by ourselves, so we definitely need to consult with them on this issue. And they actually advised us not to go for any ephemeral security guarantees, which at that time were impossible to give at all."
Ukrainian and international prosecutors and investigators have documented how Russian troops summarily executed Bucha residents, many of whose bodies were found with hands bound and signs of torture. Investigators also identified and named dozens of Russian servicemen involved in the killings.
Russian troops controlled Bucha over March 5-31. After Ukrainian troops retook the town on April 1, international news agencies began to publish photo and video evidence of the killings of civilians there.
More than 30 bodies of people in civilian clothes were found on the streets of the town and in the courtyards of houses.
Human Rights Watch (HRW), a New York-based nongovernmental organization, confirmed the allegations against the Russian army:
“[HRW] researchers who worked in Bucha from April 4 to 10, days after Russian forces withdrew from the area, found extensive evidence of summary executions, other unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, and torture, all of which would constitute war crimes and potential crimes against humanity.”
Reuters journalists spent 21 days in Bucha, “interviewing more than 90 residents, reviewing photographic and video evidence these locals shared and examining documents left behind by the Russians.” The news agency identified “individual Russian soldiers and military units present during the bloody occupation.”
An April 2022 investigation by Amnesty International found that Bucha “was the site of a host of apparent war crimes during the period of Russian control.”
In November and December 2022, The Associated Press and The New York Times published the results of their separate monthslong investigations into the Bucha massacre, based on an analysis of hundreds of hours of surveillance footage, intercepted Russian telephone conversations and interviews with eyewitnesses.