Key developments on March 31:
- Zelensky, EU leaders visit Bucha one year after its liberation from Russian occupation
- UN human rights chief: 8,400 civilian deaths in Ukraine 'just the tip of the iceberg'
- Ukrainian military repels 30 Russian attacks in Donetsk Oblast, says General Staff
On March 31, President Volodymyr Zelensky, along with the prime ministers of Slovakia, Slovenia, and Croatia, and the president of Moldova, attended a ceremony commemorating the first anniversary of Bucha's liberation — a town now emblematic of Russian war crimes against civilians.
Located near Kyiv, Bucha fell under Russian occupation shortly after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022. Exactly one year ago, Ukrainian forces liberated the town, revealing the atrocities committed by Russian troops against civilians during their 33-day occupation.
"A year has passed since the day Russian occupiers were driven from our city of Bucha. A city then unknown to the world. A city the world will never forget. We won't let you forget. Human decency demands we remember," Zelensky said in his address.
It is estimated that Russian troops had committed more than 9,000 war crimes in the Bucha district, killing over 1,400 people, including 37 children.
"What the Russian aggressor did to peaceful citizens in Bucha can never be forgiven," Slovenian Prime Minister Robert Golob said. "That is why we are with you in this difficult moment and feel our duty to help you in the fight for your freedom."
Zelensky also held discussions on defense assistance with Golob, Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger, and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic in separate meetings, as reported by the President's Office.
Slovakia promised to provide Ukraine with 13 MiG-29 fighter jets and has already transferred four of them.
On the same day, European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen condemned Russian war crimes in Bucha, saying that those responsible for them would be held accountable.
"What happened in Bucha one year ago was not an isolated episode. Those executions in cold blood were part of a bigger plan — the Kremlin's plan to eliminate Ukrainians," she wrote on Twitter.
"War criminals will be held accountable," she added.
UN on casualties in Ukraine: 'just the tip of the iceberg'
The UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has verified over 8,400 civilian deaths and more than 14,000 wounded civilians in Ukraine since the beginning of Russia's all-out war, but these figures likely represent "just the tip of the iceberg," UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk said on March 31.
"People across Ukraine face massive suffering and loss, deprivation, displacement, and destruction," Türk said.
"Most of the casualties resulted from Russian forces' use of wide-impact explosive weaponry in residential neighborhoods," he added.
Russian attacks across Ukraine killed two and injured 20 civilians over the past day, according to the Ukrainian authorities.
Officials have repeatedly stressed that the actual number of casualties in Ukraine may be significantly higher than reported, as verifying data from temporarily occupied territories and areas with ongoing hostilities remains challenging.
On the battlefield
In its regular evening update on March 31, the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces reported that Russian forces continued to focus their main efforts on offensives in the eastern Donetsk Oblast.
Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Marinka's directions remain Russia's top priority, according to the report.
Over the past 24 hours, the Ukrainian military successfully repelled 30 Russian attacks in these directions, the General Staff said, adding that "the battles for the settlements of Bilohorivka, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Marinka remain the fiercest."
On March 29, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, called the eight-month-long battle for Bakhmut "a slaughter-fest for the Russians," saying that Moscow troops were suffering heavy casualties in the area.
Bakhmut's deputy mayor, Oleksandr Marchenko, told Suspilne media outlet on March 30 that fighting continues to grip Bakhmut's city center as the Russian army strives to cut off access to the city.