Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly awarded the Russian military brigade believed responsible for the horrific killings in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha with an honorary title, The Independent reports.
In the wake of the alleged massacre, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense in April classified the soldiers in Russia's 64th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade as war criminals.
On Monday, Putin reportedly congratulated the same unit for its "great heroism and courage," and awarded members the title of "Guards" for "protecting Russia's sovereignty," per The Independent and CNN.
"Through astute and bold actions during the special military operation in Ukraine, the unit's staff became a role model in fulfilling its military duty, valor, dedication, and professionalism," Putin's signed letter continued, per CNN.
The decision to honor the unit will "be seen as a public message to Ukraine's government and the West," CNN posits, given the international condemnation that followed the reports of the alleged war crimes. Though Ukraine and President Volodymyr Zelensky have blamed Russia for the atrocities, the Kremlin has denied any involvement and called the images out of Bucha "fake."