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Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson said on Wednesday that images of dead bodies strewn across the Ukrainian town of Bucha, which Russia says were staged, were designed to justify more sanctions against Moscow and derail peace talks with Kyiv.

Ukraine has accused the Russian military of massacring residents of Bucha, a town outside the capital Kyiv that Russian troops had occupied for several weeks before withdrawing.

Western countries have called for those responsible for the murder of civilians to be punished.

Chinese, Ukrainian foreign ministers discuss Russia invasion

“These terrible, criminal fake (images) were published in order to justify another pre-arranged sanctions package, including a large-scale expulsion of diplomats from different countries,” Maria Zakharova said at her weekly briefing.

“And also of course in order to complicate, if not completely disrupt, (peace) talks.”

The Kremlin said earlier on Wednesday that peace talks between Moscow and Kyiv were not progressing as rapidly or energetically as it would like.

Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what it called a special operation to degrade its southern neighbour’s military capabilities and root out people it called dangerous nationalists.

Russia says footage in Ukraine’s Bucha was ‘ordered’ to blame Russia

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

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