The horror has come to light in Bucha, on the outskirts of kyiv, after the withdrawal of Russian troops on March 31. The appearance of numerous bodies of apparently murdered civilians has shocked the world. The Government of Ukraine accuses Russia of having carried out a premeditated massacre of hundreds of people and asks that Moscow, which denies its responsibility in the events, pay for it. President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks of “war crimes” in Bucha and other regions of the country. So far, according to municipal sources, 280 civilians have been buried in a mass grave since the Russians withdrew last Thursday.
At noon on Sunday there were still civilian bodies pending collection from the streets of Bucha, as EL PAÍS was able to verify. This town of about 35,000 inhabitants, located about twenty kilometers from the capital, is, so far, the last stop of the terror of the war that has been sweeping Ukraine since last February 24, when the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, ordered the invasion and attack this former Soviet republic. His men arrived in Bucha on the morning of the 27th and found hell. The “terrible battle” was witnessed by Larisa, 72, in front of her home.
“It was nine am. The tanks advanced and the brave Russians, confident in their victory, were upon them. My son counted 72 in total. The last one was a fuel supply. My son told me: ‘get up early, it’s starting to get mixed up!’ When I got up, they were already coming back. There, on the bridge, they were not allowed access to Irpin. And then our Bayraktars [drones de combate] They began to crush them!” Larisa explained on Sunday afternoon, gesturing with her arms in front of one of the burned-out tanks right outside her house.
“Everything was on fire. A hand appeared there, another near the basement. There were legs torn off. It was terrifying,” he continues. After that first defeat, the Russians returned and took control of Bucha on March 5. Larisa says that men in black uniforms asked for her son’s papers and took away their mobile phones. In all this time, the Kremlin troops have had to live with the remains of the attack that killed their comrades. The hatred was fired from that morning of February 27, according to the testimonies collected among the inhabitants.
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Now, after their withdrawal, the bodies of Ukrainian civilians have appeared in different areas of the city. Some of the bodies had their hands tied and had shots to the head, according to eyewitnesses and local authorities. Associated Press reporters in Bucha saw at least nine bodies in civilian clothes, two of them with their hands tied, apparently shot at close range.
The mayor, Anatoli Fedoruk, accuses the massacre of Chechens who have collaborated with the Russian Army and showed reporters from the Reuters agency two of the bodies. One of them had his hands tied and had a shot in the mouth. “Some were lying on the sidewalk, others next to a car or a bicycle,” said the mayor in a video broadcast on the social network Facebook. The dead are “whole families of children, women, grandmothers and men,” Fedoruk added. This is the worst “massacre” in Europe since World War II, said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba, estimating the number of people executed at several hundred.
The organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) has denounced through a statement what it considers “war crimes” committed by Russian forces in kyiv, Kharkov and Chernihiv. Specifically, it refers to a case of repeated rape; two cases of summary execution, one of six men and one of one, and other acts against civilians committed between February 27 and March 14.
Meanwhile, life continues in fits and starts in the liberated Bucha. Dozens of people queued in the snow Sunday at the hospital to pick up food. “Today they are serving hot food. It’s a bit humiliating for us to eat what they give. We are already used to cooking on the campfire,” says 63-year-old Vladimir. “Russians were walking down our street. They reviewed the documents of our neighbors. It was frightening. The detonations were so loud that the walls were shaking,” he notes.
Another woman waiting to pick up food and who prefers not to give her name explains that her house was cracked by the explosions and that they almost stopped going out. “Russian soldiers walked past us, but they didn’t come. Corpses were seen in the streets,” she comments.
The first scene of the defeat of the Moscow troops was experienced in Bucha that Sunday, February 27, when the column of dozens of battle tanks entered the town along Vokzalna Street. They advanced towards Irpin and then proceeded to attack kyiv, barely a dozen kilometers away. But, as Larisa, the 72-year-old woman, tells us, that street turned into hell when the line of military vehicles was bombed. A neighbor walked by the scene shortly after and the minutes he recorded with his cell phone of the still-burning battle tanks immediately went viral. The man commented on the scene and hurled insults in Russian as he walked down the street.
It seemed unbelievable that the almighty Russian military machine had been received like this as soon as it invaded Ukraine. After intense fighting in recent weeks in this area northwest of kyiv, the invading troops have withdrawn without achieving their goal of entering the capital and overthrowing the government headed by Zelensky. Even today there are no figures of the Russian soldiers who left their lives on Vokzalna Street, converted into a place of pilgrimage for civilians and local soldiers. This Sunday, soldiers and policemen came to take the required photo with their mobile phone and snoop through the charred masses. Meanwhile, the bodies of executed civilians continue to be counted.
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