Becky Sullivan / NPR
BUCHA, Ukraine – Russian troops did not stay long in the city before they came to the house of Vladimir Avramov, a resident of Vakzalnaya Street in the quiet Ukrainian suburb of Bucha.
Three Russians kicked in the door and threw a grenade, said 72-year-old Avramov. Inside were Avramov, his daughter and son-in-law Oleg.
Aleh was dragged out into the street and forced to kneel, after which he was shot in the head while Avramov and his daughter were watching, he said. Then the two were forced to hide in the basement for several weeks as the fighting continued.
“Oleg has been lying on the street for a month. I couldn’t go up or bury him, nothing, ”he said.
Images of civilians killed in the streets of Bucha have shocked the world in recent days and raised concerns that Russian soldiers are committing war crimes in Ukraine. President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky called it genocide.
“There were piles of dead corpses, without arms, without legs, without skulls,” Avramov said. “You won’t see it in a nightmare. It’s horrible.”
Stories similar to the one told by Avramov were documented by Human Rights Watch, which found evidence of killings of civilians in the style of shootings in several Ukrainian cities, including Bucha.
Now Ukraine has stepped up its calls for the West to provide more military assistance and take more action against Russia, hoping to break the weight if the struggle moves from Kiev to eastern Ukraine.
“If we had already got what we needed – all these planes, tanks, artillery, anti-missile and anti-ship weapons – we could have saved thousands of people. I do not blame you – I blame only the Russian military. But you could help, ”Zielenski said in his speech on Monday.
About 200 bodies of civilians have been found so far
As part of the effort, Ukrainian authorities organized tours for foreign journalists to see the extent of Russia’s devastation of Bucha: destroyed houses, blackened buildings, broken windows and the apocalyptic Vokzalnaya Street – a half-mile-long cemetery. burned tanks and cars.
Among the ruins, members of the demining team showed reporters some explosives that were found in homes in the city. According to officials, about 4,000, a mixture of mines, ammunition and unexploded ordnance, were found on Monday alone.
According to officials, the bodies of about 200 civilians have been found in the Bucha area so far, and more are being found every day as teams work to clear mines and clear debris.
On Tuesday, officials showed reporters six bodies burned beyond recognition in a backyard in a quiet wooded corner of the city. According to the representative of the National Police of Ukraine Dmytro Andriv, they were found the night before.
“We know they were killed by firearms because there are a lot of bullet wounds. Then someone tried to hide the crime by burning the bodies, ”Andriyu said, adding that there were no signs of artillery shelling or other explosives.
As bodies are discovered, authorities say they are working to identify them and investigate their deaths for any evidence of war crimes, including physical evidence linking their deaths to specific Russian soldiers.
“We know that they came here to kill Ukrainians as a nation and destroy our country as a state. But we must prove it to the world. Therefore, we are scrupulously gathering evidence,” said Prosecutor General of Ukraine Irina Venediktov on Tuesday.
In the midst of all this, a war of disinformation is raging
Russia has repeatedly tried to discredit photos and other evidence of civilians killed in Bucha.
“It’s just a well-staged but tragic show,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday. “This is a forgery aimed at defaming the Russian army, and it will not work.”
Russian officials have made several claims about the origin of the images. Former President Dmitry Medvedev said Western PR companies had fabricated the photos.
Another Russian theory claimed that the Ukrainians staged the bodies after regaining control of the city. But satellite images from Maxar show that the dead have been lying in place since mid-March, when Russian troops occupied the city.
Propaganda efforts have disgusted Ukrainian officials, said Andrei Zagorodniuk, who served as Ukraine’s defense minister from 2019 to 2020.
“It is absolutely clear that these people were not just dressed in civilian clothes. These were civilians because most of them were already identified. We know their addresses. These are locals. These are the locals who lived in these houses. “he said. ‘It only shows how vomiting the Moscow government is.’
Among ordinary Ukrainians, images and stories from Bucha have evaporated the slight sympathy that may have remained for Russian soldiers, hundreds of whom were taken prisoner as prisoners of war.
One Ukrainian serviceman, who could not name himself for security reasons, warned that Ukrainian forces could no longer try to take the Russians alive.
“Now that most of our units have information about Mariupol and how many dead people and these horrible Bucha photos are available in the public domain, no one will take them anymore,” he said. “Nobody cares anymore. They will all go to earth. “
Daniel Wood contributed to this story.
Additional reports by Nathan Roth and Luka Aleksyshyn from Bucha and Iryna Matviishyn from Lviv.