War Crimes Watch: A Devastating Walk In Bucha’s Horror E! NewsUK

BUCHA, Ukraine — A dead body lies in the basement of the abandoned yellow house at the end of the street near the train tracks. The man is young, pale, a trickle of dried blood in his mouth, shot and left in the dark, and nobody knows why the Russians put him there, in a house that did not belong to him.

There is a pile of toys by the stairs leading down to the basement. Plastic clothespins dangle from an empty line under a cold, gray sky. They’re all that’s normal at this blackened end of the road in Bucha, where the treads of tanks are ripped from charred vehicles, civilian cars are crushed and crates of ammunition are stacked next to empty Russian military rations and liquor bottles.

The man in the basement is almost an afterthought, just another dead body in a town where deaths are plentiful but no satisfying explanations.

A resident, Mykola Babak, points to the man after reflecting on the scene in a small yard nearby. There were three men lying there. One is missing an eye. Someone has placed a handful of yellow flowers on an old carpet near a corpse.

A dog strides excitedly around the corner with a wheelbarrow. The wheelbarrow is holding another dog’s body. He too was shot.

This story is part of an ongoing Associated Press and Frontline investigation that includes the War Crimes Watch Ukraine interactive experience and an upcoming documentary.

Babak stands there, a cigarette in one hand, a plastic bag of cat food in the other.

“I’m very calm today,” he said. “I shaved for the first time. »

At the start of their month-long occupation of Bucha, he said, the Russians remained fairly alone and focused on the advance ahead. When that faltered, they went house to house looking for young men, sometimes taking documents and phones. The Ukrainian resistance seemed to weigh on them. The Russians seemed angrier, more impulsive. Sometimes they looked drunk.

When they first visited Babak, they were polite. But when they returned on his birthday, March 28, they yelled at him and his brother-in-law. They placed a grenade under the brother-in-law’s armpit and threatened to pull out the needle. They took an AK-47 and fired near Babak’s feet. Let’s kill him, said one, but another Russian told them to give up and leave.

Before leaving, the Russians asked him an excellent question: “Why are you still here?”

Like many of those who stayed in Bucha, Babak is older – 61 years old. It wasn’t easy to leave. He thought he would be spared. And yet, in the end, the stressed-out Russians accused him of being a saboteur. He spent a month under occupation with no electricity, no running water and cooking over a fire. He was not prepared for this war.

Maybe not even the Russians.

On March 31, around 6 p.m., and Babak remembers it well, the Russians jumped into their vehicles and drove off, leaving the bodies of their companions behind.

“We were good at that street,” Mykola gives an update on the cast. At Bucha, everything is relative. “They didn’t shoot anyone who came out of their house. On the next street they did.

During the search of Bucha, The Associated Press found two dozen witnesses to the Russian occupation. Almost everyone said they saw one body, sometimes several. Civilians were killed, mostly men, sometimes chosen at random. Many, including older people, say they have been threatened themselves.

The question survivors, investigators and the world would like to answer is why. Ukraine has seen the horrors of nearby Mariupol, Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Irpin. But the images of this city, an hour’s drive from Kyiv, have become entrenched in the global consciousness like no other. Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk said the civilian death toll stood at 320 on Wednesday.

Vladyslav Minchenko is an artist who helps collect corpses.

“It certainly seems very, very conscious. But it’s hard to know what other motivations are behind it,” a senior US defense official said this week, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the military assessment.

The people of Bucha come up with theories as they venture out of the cold houses and cellars. Some believe the Russians weren’t ready for a prolonged fight, or had some particularly recalcitrant fighters under them. Some believe the house-to-house attacks on younger men were a hunt for those who had fought the Russians in separatist-held eastern Ukraine in recent years and obtained shelter in the city.

In the end every trace of discipline crumbled away.

Grenades were thrown into cellars, corpses thrown into wells. Women in their 70s were told not to stick their heads out of their homes or they would be killed. “When you leave the house, I will obey the order, and you know what the order is. I will burn your house, ”Tetyana Petrovskaya recalls after telling a soldier.

At first, the Russians behaved well, says 63-year-old Nataliya Aleksandrova. “They said they came for three days. Then they got hungry. They were cold. They started looting. They shot TV screens for no reason.

They feared that there were spies among the Ukrainians. Aleksandrova says her nephew was arrested on March 7 after he was seen filming destroyed tanks with his cellphone. Four days later he was found in a basement with a bullet in his ear.

A few days later, thinking the Russians had left, Aleksandrova and a neighbor slipped away to close nearby houses and protect them from looting. The Russians grabbed them and took them to a basement.

“They asked us, ‘What kind of death do you prefer, slow or fast?’ “Grenade or firearm? They had 30 seconds to decide. Suddenly, the soldiers were called, leaving Aleksandrova and her neighbor shaken but alive.

The Russians were desperate when it became clear that they could not advance to Kyiv, explains Sergei Radetskiy. The soldiers only thought about how to loot and get out.

“They had to kill someone,” he says. “And killing civilians is very easy. »

Associated Press reporters Rodrigo Abd, Oleksandr Stashevskyi, Felipe Dana and Vadim Ghirda in Bucha and Lolita Baldor in Washington contributed.

Follow AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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