Zelensky on Bucha: "The world will see it as a genocide"
Ukrainian president visits the village to denounce massacre committed by Russian troops
Special Envoy to Bucha (Ukraine)The first thing you come across when you take the turn-off leading to the town of Bucha are two overturned trucks on the road, with their rear wheels up and their cabs sunk in a ditch which runs next to the road. One of the vehicles is one of those that transport cement, and the other is also a heavy-duty truck. It seems incredible that they have ended up like that. They are just a prelude to the horrors further down the road. In Bucha every red line has been crossed.
At the exit of the village there is another car which crashed against the fence of the road. It is a red car with a white flag clearly visible, driving in the direction of Kyiv. That is, those travelling were possibly civilians trying to flee the horror of Bucha. However, the white flag was of no use. The vehicle is riddled with bullet impacts. Russian soldiers machine-gunned them as well.
A few meters further on there is another car lying on the road with flat tyres and a wrecked body. It has an inscription written in very large letters on the bonnet, that reads "children", since it may have been carrying minors. On the sides there is another similar inscription, and also on the windshield and on the windows. It is impossible that the Russian military did not see the letters even if they were dozens of meters away. Nevertheless, they fired at them.
In this way, one could go on listing examples and more examples that add to the unmistakable images taken by the first photographers who arrived in Bucha on Saturday, after Russian troops withdrew and Ukrainian forces regained control of this town located about 15 kilometres northwest of Kyiv and home to some 36,000 people. The images could not be more stark or more graphic: they show dozens of lifeless bodies of civilians lying in the street. Some even had their hands tied. It is impossible that all this is a set-up by the Ukrainian authorities, as the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claims. He has come out against the voices accusing the Russian troops of having committed war crimes.
On Sunday the Ukrainian security forces prevented the press from accessing Bucha, and this Monday, when they allowed it again, there were no more corpses in the town's streets. At least in the streets where we were allowed to go. Some areas were closed to traffic because Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, went to the town on Monday to see with his own eyes the atrocities committed by Russian soldiers. It was the first time he had left Kyiv since the war began on February 24, and he did so surrounded by dozens of troops to ensure his safety. Only a few journalists were invited to the visit.
There were, however, still corpses is in the mass grave behind the church, a beautiful orthodox temple with white walls and golden dome, which also did not escape the fighting. Its façade received several bullets. The grave is still open in a field which on Monday had become a real quagmire and where large black plastic bags accumulated, containing corpses. In fact, a half-buried hand and leg could be seen in the mud.
It is difficult to know how many bodies are buried there, because not even the parish priest, Father Andri Halavin, was able to specify the number on Monday, even though he was the one who decided to bury them there. "There were so many corpses in the street that we had to bury them somewhere. The morgue was already full and we couldn't go to the cemetery because of the fighting," he said Monday.
The first body was buried on March 10. And then the macabre trickle of corpses continued until the Russian troops withdrew last Friday, proof that the crimes did not take place coinciding with their departure and as revenge, but that the civilians of Bucha have lived through hell for weeks.
"Some of the people we buried we knew. Others we didn't, and we will have to identify them because their families could be looking for them," added the parish priest. According to him, some 300 people died in Bucha. In fact, the Ukrainian authorities have located 410 lifeless bodies of civilians in this municipality and other nearby municipalities, such as Irpin and Hostomel, which were also occupied by Russian soldiers.
For that reason, the Ukrainian president did not hesitate this Monday to affirm that a genocide had been committed. "These are war crimes and the world will see it as genocide", were his literal words from Bucha, where he also showed his reluctance to continue negotiating a possible peace with Moscow after all that has happened. For its part, the international community is considering increasing sanctions against Russia due to the Bucha massacre.
Some streets in Bucha look like they have been hit by a hurricane. There are fallen trees, toppled bus shelters and shattered glass. In a shopping centre's car park you can even find unexploded shells stuck in the ground. There are countless burnt cars and buildings which have been completely destroyed. This Monday the town was still without electricity, gas, water and telephone coverage. In spite of this, some residents were beginning to take to the streets after weeks of terror.