Bodies lying on the street in Bucha. Photo: Ronaldo Schemidt / AFP / East News
Since the Ukrainian army regained control of Bucha and other cities in the Kyiv region, journalists and eyewitnesses have been publishing evidence of war crimes: photos of murdered civilians lying in the streets, mass graves, cars with bullet holes. Russian Defence Ministry called this "just another hoax of the Kyiv regime".
"If you think Russian soldiers are people..." a male voice says slowly in a video posted on Twitter on April 2. The camera looks through the windshield. It captures the hand on the steering wheel, the driver swerves around the corpse on the road, and finishes his phrase: "Just think about what was happening here."
He drives past at least ten human bodies, one of the dead is seemingly still sitting on a bicycle that has fallen over on its side.
"My brother sent me this. The town of Bucha is northwest of Kyiv. Scores of dead people just in one street… I can't even process it," the video description says.
On April 2, the Ukrainian military has recaptured the city of Bucha, a district center some 30 kilometres away from Kyiv with a pre-war population of 37 thousand people. Soon after, terrible images flooded the media and social networks. According to mayor Anatoly Fedoruk, "bodies litter the streets."
Following the recapture of Bucha, some 280 people have been buried in mass graves, he told AFP. The agency's reporters counted "at least 20 bodies in one street in Bucha, including a male corpse with his hands tied behind his back."
"16 of the 20 corpses from the streets of Bucha were lying either on the sidewalk or on the curb. Three corpses were lying in the middle of the road, and another one was in some courtyard. An open Ukrainian passport was lying on the ground next to a man whose hands were tied behind his back with a piece of white cloth. All were wearing civilian clothes: winter coats, casual and sports jackets, jeans and sweatpants, sneakers and boots. Two people were found lying near their bicycles, another one was lying next to an abandoned car. Some were lying face up, with their limbs twisted, others were lying face down," – journalists described the city.
Yesterday adviser to the head of the office of the President of Ukraine Mikhail Podolyak posted on Twitter a photo of the murdered Bucha residents with their hands tied behind their backs. "These people were not military," he wrote. "They didn't have guns. They didn't pose a threat. How many more cases like this are happening now in the occupied territories?".
"Scores of civilians dead on the road, both elderly and young. You can see that some were riding their bicycles, a blast – and they fell to the ground in their home city – forever," said Ukrainian journalist Dmitry Komarov, who drove into Bucha together with the military. According to him, the doors of entrances, playgrounds, and abandoned cars might be still booby-trapped, and the bomb squads are now working there.
Russian officials are still silent about the accusations of civilian murders. The Russian Defence Ministry has reposted a message by an anonymous Telegram channel "War Against Fakes" that claims that the whole scene was "staged".
Human Rights Watch published stories – some of them anonymous – of Ukrainians confirming the massacre of civilians in various cities, including Bucha.
A local teacher told human rights activists that on March 4 the Russian military executed a man and threatened to kill four more. That morning, she heard gunfire and saw three Russian armoured personnel carriers and four Kamaz trucks drive down her street. The woman hid in the basement with her two dogs when she heard someone knocking on the front door of the house. Then soldiers demanded in Russian: "Come out immediately, or we will throw a grenade."
The woman yelled that she was alone in the basement and came out with her hands raised. Outside, there were three Russians – "two soldiers and a commander." They checked her phone and then ordered her to follow them. Along the way, the woman saw other military personnel going around the houses of her neighbours.
People were brought to the area in front of the office of a warehouse rental company. Most of them were women, but also there were several men over 50 — some forty people in total. The Russian military was looking for members of the territorial defense force.
"At some point they brought one young man, then four more. The soldiers ordered them to take off their shoes and jackets. They forced them to kneel on the side of the road. Russian soldiers pulled their T-shirts off from behind and over their heads. They shot one in the back of the head. He fell. The women screamed. The other four men were kneeling. A commander told the rest of the people not to worry: "You're all normal people, and this is dirt. We are here to wipe this dirt away from you," the woman recalled.
A few hours later people were escorted back to their homes; when it was her time to go, the four men remained on their knees. On March 9, when the Human Rights Watch interviewee was able to leave Bucha she saw that the body of the murdered man was still lying at the execution site.
40-year-old Dmitry told human rights activists that he was able to escape from the shelled city on March 7. He and other refugees walked on foot, wrapped in white sheets and waving them over their heads, about five kilometers to the village of Vorzel in the Irpen district.
There, Dmitry spent two nights with the locals in the basement of a two-story house. Dmitry met a woman with gunshot wounds to her chest and legs – according to him, people from the basement described Russian soldiers throwing a smoke bomb inside: several people panicked and ran out into the street, where the military started shooting at them. A 14-year-old teenager was shot in the head and a woman was wounded. Dmitry says she died the next day, March 8; he helped bury her near their shelter.
Reports of the killings of civilians come from other districts of the Kyiv region.
Irpen, a city of 60 thousand people some 40 kilometres from Kyiv, was liberated on March 28. Mayor Alexander Makrushin said that a preliminary count of the murdered civilians reaches 300 people.
"I'm gonna tell you, no matter if some won't like it, it's true. They crushed already dead Ukrainians' bodies with tanks, and simply pounded them into the ground. It was a terrifying sight," Makrushin said.
On March 15, the German ZDF TV channel published a drone video verified by journalists that showed Russian soldiers shooting a civilian on the E-40 highway near Kyiv.
The video was shot on March 7. The drone spotted a Russian military vehicle a few meters from the gas station with a V sign visible.
Then the footage shows several cars passing along the highway. When they saw the military, they made sharp U-turns, but one car stopped. A man came out, raised his hands, and almost immediately fell to the ground clutching his stomach. Military personnel with white armbands ran up to him, and the passengers got out of the car.
On April 1, the BBC learned the names of these people. The murdered driver was Maxim Iovenko; his wife Ksenia was "shot in the car" by the Russian military. Their six-year-old son and the elderly mother of one of Maxim's friends were let go.
BBC reporter Jeremy Bowen saw Iovenkos' burned car and suggested that the Russians could have set it on fire attempting to cover up the murder of unarmed civilians.
On the evening of April 2, the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine reported four or five corpses of naked women found on the road some 20 kilometres from Kyiv. "Those barbarians tried to burn them right there, on the side of the road," the ministry said, posting a photo of tires under a brown blanket.
This picture was published by photographer Mikhail Palinchak. He wrote that under the blanket were the bodies of one man and two or three naked women.Y
Ukrainian journalist Katerina Malofeeva wrote that Ukrainian battalion "Crimea" found a burial site with two female and four male bodies; these were civilians killed by shots to the back of the head; some had their hands tied behind their backs. UNIAN news уagency published a photo of the mass grave.
There's an obituary to the Sukhenko family on a the local Facebook group. "They cared about the village, tried to keep in touch with everyone, help with food, and provide moral support. They did the impossible — without humanitarian corridors, they organised the evacuation of fellow villagers and their families with children who came to Motyzhyn from Kyiv looking for safety. Alexander was a particularly brave man, who returned every time to help others because everyone close to him became a family," — this is how the villagers remember their dead.
Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Irina Vereshchuk called the murder of Olga Sukhenko a war crime.
Today, the Ukrainian publication Babel published a photo report from a small village of Dmitrovka in the Bucha district. The pictures show loads of burned cars and bodies lying nearby, many of them burned.
"A few days ago, the village was liberated by the Ukrainian army," the publication writes. — Now its residents are returning to the village. They sort out the rubble, fix the windows, and remove the corpses that are scattered all around. Some of the dead have their hands tied up. This indicates that the Russian soldiers shot civilians purposefully. This is genocide."
On April 1, Zvezda TV channel, owned by the Russian Defence Ministry, reported that Russian paratroopers and marines "are performing a security sweep" in the west of the Kyiv region "tasked with securing a foothold there." According to Zvezda, "units of airborne troops and marines have successfully deterred the movements of enemy forces in the direction of Gostomel – Bucha – Ozera for five days." The TV channel even named the commander of one of the units of the marines – Alexey Shabulin.
"My great-grandfather fought through the entire Great Patriotic War, and up until 1953 he was hunting down that fascist scum called Banderovtsy in the Ukrainian forests. Now I am here being a glorious successor to this tradition, now my time has come. And I will not disgrace my great-grandfather, and I will go to the end," Shabulin said to RuNews24 channel.
According to the CIT research team, before the war, parts of the Eastern Military District, as well as units of the 76th Airborne Division and the 98th Airborne Division, were deployed to Belarus territory – that's where the Russian military launched an attack on Kyiv from. CIT also notes that the equipment of the Russian National Guard was seen in the Kyiv region, and Kadyrov's troops made an appearance at the airfield in Gostomel – a resident of Gostomel also told Mediazona about the military from Chechnya.
Editor: Dmitry Tkachev
Updated at 19:15. After the article was published, the Russian Defence Ministry proclaimed that "over the time Bucha was under the control of the Russian Armed Forces, not a single local resident was injured," and "all photos and video footage published by the Kyiv regime, allegedly testifying to some "crimes" of Russian servicemen in the city of Bucha, are just another hoax."
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