Putin calls Bucha killings 'fake' as bodies pile up

STORY: In his first public remarks since Russian soldiers retreated from several Ukrainian cities to refocus their assault on the country's east, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the invasion was going as planned... that peace-talks between Moscow and Kyiv had hit a dead-end... and that the bodies of Ukrainian civilians found in the city of Bucha had been staged.

Putin offered no evidence to support this allegation.

But while the Russian leader called the piles of corpses in Bucha fake, investigators here were painstakingly combing the scene for the facts.

This group from the French Gendarmerie's forensic science department watched workers in hazmat suits digg earth from a shallow grave, then lift out a heavy mass wrapped in an orange blanket.

The burnt body parts inside, allegedly those of a woman and her two children, were too charred to tell apart.

Here's Ukrainian prosecutor-general Iryna Venediktov.

"We have now a lot of job unfortunately with war crimes, war crimes against humanity. Today you were all witnesses where we were digging out three bodies of a family. Witnesses told that it was a woman and her two kids, we don’t know who are they. We will identify them by our procedural possibilities and maybe with our French colleagues."

The mayor of Bucha on Tuesday said 403 bodies had been found so far.

Russian troops occupied Bucha for several weeks before they withdrew. Satellite imagery appears to show bodies laying in the streets while the town was under Russian control.

One of the mass graves was outside this church. Priest Andriy Halavin said that during the Russian occupation, in early March, the dead began to accumulate, and needed to be buried somewhere.

"Animals were running around, you know what could have happened. And when the number of dead people got too high, it was important to bury them. We couldn't get to the cemetery, because they were shooting at cars. On March 10, the local government contacted us and asked if we minded burying people here."

Russian forces would remain in the city for almost three more weeks.

Ukraine has accused the Russian military of executing residents. U.S. President Joe Biden has called Putin a “war criminal.”

"He is a war criminal."

Putin sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in February in what he called a "special operation".

Ukrainian forces have mounted stiff resistance and the West has imposed sweeping sanctions in an effort to force Russia to withdraw its forces.