China Calls for Bucha Massacre Investigation, Refuses to Condemn Russia
China's balancing act over Ukraine may become more challenging in the wake of the massacre in Bucha.
The Chinese government said on Wednesday that it considered images from the massacre in Bucha, Ukraine, “deeply disturbing,” but it cautioned against assigning blame to any party in the conflict until more details are understood.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian outlined Beijing’s position at a press conference, saying that it would support any measures “conducive to alleviating the humanitarian crisis” and preventing further harm to civilians in Ukraine.
“The truth and the cause of the incident must be verified,” Zhao said. “All parties should exercise restraint and avoid unfounded accusations before a conclusion of the investigation is drawn.”
Zhao’s remarks echo those of China’s ambassador to the United Nations, Zhang Jun, who insisted that “the relevant circumstances and specific causes of the incident should be verified and established” before accusations were made against any one side. The existing evidence from Bucha, which Ukrainian forces recaptured on March 31 following Russia’s withdrawal to the north, overwhelmingly implicates Russian troops in the massacre. Satellite footage examined by the New York Times indicates that the corpses had been placed on the street during the Russian occupation of the town, and town residents told Ukrainian authorities that Russian soldiers had “senselessly” shot civilians during the occupation. Several of the bodies found by Ukrainian forces had their hands tied behind their backs and were shot in the head, suggesting that they had been summarily executed.
As Russia’s war in Ukraine enters its sixth week, China has remained scrupulously neutral, abstaining from all Russia-related UN votes and refusing requests to aid Russian forces but refusing to participate in the international sanctions campaign against Moscow. China’s government has mostly adhered to the position that NATO’s eastward expansion forced Russia to act against Ukraine in self-defense, and Chinese media outlets have echoed unfounded Russian claims that the United States operates bioweapons laboratories in Ukraine. Chinese netizens have been more divided in their assessments, with some agreeing with the government line but others faulting Russia for the invasion and calling for Russian accountability for the Bucha massacre.
In his statement, Zhao reiterated Beijing’s disapproval of the international sanctions campaign, arguing that sanctions do not work as intended.
“History and reality have proven that sanctions do not bring peace and security, but only bring lose-lose or multiple losses, adding to the already difficult world economy and impacting the existing world economic system,” the spokesman said.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.