Lviv, Ukraine: The lifeless bodies of at least 20 civilian men line a single street in the town of Bucha near the Ukrainian capital. Some lie face down on the pavement while others are collapsed on their backs, mouths open in a tragic testament to the horrors of Russian occupation. The hands of one man are tied behind his back with a piece of white cloth. Another man lies alone, tangled up in a bicycle by a grassy bank. A third man lies in the middle of the road, near the charred remains of a burned-out car. The shocking images of the carnage in Bucha were captured by Agence France-Presse on Saturday, the same day Ukraine declared the town liberated from Russian troops. Accounts of alleged Russian atrocities are emerging as its forces retreat from areas near Kyiv following a failed bid to encircle the capital.
The town of Bucha has endured five weeks of near-constant firefights. Now officials and human rights groups are blaming the civilian deaths on the departed Russian forces.
“Corpses of executed people still line the Yabluska street in Bucha. Their hands are tied behind their backs with white ‘civilian’ rags, they were shot in the back of their heads. So you can imagine what kind of lawlessness they perpetrated here,” Bucha mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk said.
In a video address Sunday after the reports out of Bucha, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for an end of Russian “war crimes.”
The alleged atrocities in Bucha have drawn international outrage, with Western leaders, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, calling for war crimes investigations and increasing sanctions on Russia.
The Russian Ministry of Defense has claimed the extensive footage of Bucha was “fake,” saying “not a single local resident suffered from any violent actions” during Russia’s occupation of the city. “In the settlements of the Kyiv region, Russian military personnel delivered and issued 452 tons of humanitarian aid to civilians,” it said in a statement.
The toll of the Russian invasion was apparent at a mass grave in Bucha. People cried as they attempted to locate the bodies of lost loved ones at a grave located on the grounds of the Church of St. Andrew and Pyervozvannoho All Saints on Sunday, according to a CNN team at the scene. Bucha residents told CNN that bodies were first buried in the grave in the first few days of the war. They believe 150 people are buried at the site, many of whom were civilians killed in the fighting around Bucha.
CNN saw at least a dozen bodies in body bags piled inside the grave. Some were already partially covered. The mayor of Bucha said in public remarks Saturday that up to 300 victims could be buried at the site.
The earth on the church grounds appeared to have been recently moved so it is feasible that more bodies could be buried there. Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said Sunday that reports emerging from towns in the Kyiv region revealed a “post-apocalyptic picture” of life under Russian occupation.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said Sunday that reports emerging from towns in the Kyiv region revealed a “post-apocalyptic picture” of life under Russian occupation.
The evidence of apparent atrocities in Bucha came as Human Rights Watch (HRW) announced it had documented allegations of war crimes in the occupied areas of the Kyiv, Chernihiv and Kharkiv regions.HRW said Sunday that the allegations include “a case of repeated rape; two cases of summary execution, one of six men, the other of one man; and other cases of unlawful violence and threats against civilians between February 27 and March 14, 2022.” In Bucha, Russian forces “rounded up five men and summarily executed one of them” on March 4, HRW wrote. A witness told the group that soldiers forced the men to kneel on the road and pulled their shirts over their heads, before shooting one of the men in the back of the head.HRW also alleges that on February 27, six men were rounded up in the village of Staryi Bykiv in the Chernihiv region and later executed. In Malaya Rohan, a village in the Kharkiv region, a Russian soldier repeatedly raped a woman in a school where she was sheltering with her family on March 13, the victim told HRW. “She said that he beat her and cut her face, neck, and hair with a knife,” HRW wrote. The woman fled to Kharkiv the following day, “where she was able to get medical treatment and other services.”
And in the village of Vorzel, 31 miles northwest of Kyiv, Russian soldiers “threw a smoke grenade into a basement, then shot a woman and a 14-year-old child as they emerged from the basement, where they had been sheltering,” HRW said.