Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused the Russian military of plotting to cover up the mass killing of his country’s civilians in a bid to “distort the facts.”

Speaking in an emotional address to the nation in the early hours of Tuesday morning, Zelensky warned that Kremlin-led forces were attempting to hide the atrocities that were committed in the areas still occupied by Moscow. His speech comes days after hundreds of Ukrainian civilians were reportedly found dead in Kyiv suburbs like Bucha in the aftermath of the recent withdrawal of Russian troops in the region.

In his 10-minute speech, Zelensky accused Russia of using the same propaganda tactics it used when a Malaysia Airlines passenger flight was shot down in 2014 over eastern Ukraine. An independent Dutch investigation found that Russian-backed rebels downed the plane with a surface-to-air missile, killing 298 people. Russia blamed the Ukrainian government for the tragedy.

“They used the same tactics when the occupiers shot down a Malaysian Boeing over Donbas,” Zelensky said. “They blamed Ukraine. They even came up with various conspiracy theories. They even went so far as to claim that the corpses were ‘thrown’ on board the plane before it crashed.”

Zelensky made his comments undoubtedly aware that the Russian government is already promoting implausible theories to explain the images and video of bodies littering the streets of Bucha.

The Russian Defense Ministry suggested that some of the dead civilians were actually actors pretending to be dead, claiming that the video shows the bodies still moving. Independent media fact checkers and satellite images contradict Russia’s claims; the many journalists documenting the aftermath of the killings also undermine Russia’s case.

Ukrainian servicemen carry a dead body on a stretcher.
Ukrainian servicemen carry a dead body found in a basement in the city of Bucha, Ukraine, on Monday. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)
“We must also be aware that after the revealed mass killings of civilians in the Kyiv region, the occupiers may have a different attitude to their crimes in another part of our country where they came,” Zelensky said. “They are already launching a false campaign to conceal their guilt in the mass killings of civilians in Mariupol. They will do dozens of stage interviews, reedited recordings, and will kill people specifically to make it look like they were killed by someone else.”

He added: “Probably now the occupiers will try to hide the traces of their crimes. They did not do this in Bucha when they retreated. But in another area it is possible.”

Last week, the head of the U.N. Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine told Reuters that thousands of civilians may have died in the besieged port city of Mariupol since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24. The estimate includes around 210 children. Russian forces have blockaded the city, which has spent weeks without access to food, water or electricity, and it may be some time before the full extent of the devastation there is known.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted on Monday that he had spoken to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and told him that Ukraine would “collect evidence and hold Russian war criminals to account.”

President Biden said Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin should face a war crimes investigation for the deaths in Bucha.

Zelensky is due to address the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday. His office said he “will give all the evidence” to the international community.

How are Ukrainian forces taking out so many Russian tanks? Use this embed to learn about some of the weapons systems the U.S. is sending to the Ukrainian army.