In Bucha, the gruesome work of gathering evidence of atrocities begins

The body of Olga Sucheko, mayor of the village of Motyzhyn near Kyiv, lay partially covered with sand, bloodstains were visible on the clothes around her neck. Duct tape had been used to seal the pit where it had been dumped.

The local official was killed during the Russian occupation and apparently buried along with her husband and son, according to Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Minister. Investigators feared Sucheko’s daughter would be discovered in another grave nearby.

The family is just one of hundreds of civilians found dead after Russian forces withdrew from around the Ukrainian capital after a month of fierce fighting.

Monday’s grisly tour was intended to show foreign journalists the horrors Ukrainian forces have uncovered in recent days before investigators remove the bodies and begin the tedious work of gathering evidence of possible war crimes by Russian troops.

This forensic process will be necessary to counter the Kremlin’s claims that its forces are not responsible for the deaths of civilians – Moscow has instead insisted that the atrocities were either staged or perpetrated by Ukrainian forces.

Gerashchenko said the Sucheko family appeared to have been tortured before she was killed.

“The occupiers suspected they were collaborating with our military and giving them coordinates for artillery targeting,” he said, without specifying how he got the details.

Investigators would fully dig up the bodies and continue digging to see if others were buried deeper in the pit, Gerashchenko added.

Tanya Nedashkivska, 57, mourns the loss of her husband in Bucha.
Tanya Nedashkivska, 57, mourns the loss of her husband in Bucha. © Rodrigo Abd/AP

Pictures and reports from Atrocities in cities around Kyiv have sparked condemnation around the world. Ukrainian authorities hope it could mark a turning point in the Western response to the full-blown invasion of Ukraine launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24.

have European leaders promised to impose further sanctions against Russia’s economy and elite, describing the images as “intolerable”, with French President Emmanuel Macron saying “there is very clear evidence of war crimes”. US President Joe Biden renewed his call for an international investigation into war crimes on Monday.

The discoveries have also fueled Western calls for an embargo on Russian energy and coal and for Ukraine to be supplied with more offensive weapons.

Wearing a body armor, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy toured Bucha, the city northwest of Kyiv where images of dead-body-strewn streets first sparked international outrage, trying to elicit international displays of sympathy and anger.

“It is important to show the whole world what the Russian Federation and the Russian army have done here. . . it was just unimaginable,” he told reporters on Monday. He said the killing of civilians would be classified as a “war crime” and even “genocide,” a term Western leaders have so far refused to use.

“Children have been killed, women have been raped, and it’s all theirs [Russian] Responsibility and they will be held accountable for the acts they have committed,” Zelenskyy said. As he spoke, bodies were still being picked up from the streets, some placed in black sacks.

A map of Kyiv

An elderly lady and her son insisted on showing two bodies in the backyard of their neighbors’ destroyed house. The Russians “are just here on our land,” the woman cried. “We just want peace”

Ukrainian authorities showed five bodies found that day at a children’s summer camp in the city’s main park, which served as a base for the Russian army. Still visible were the trenches that Russian soldiers had dug to protect themselves and their armored vehicles.

All of the bodies retrieved from the basement for forensic examination showed severe lesions on the heads and four had their hands tied behind their backs.

“We’re starting an investigation, recovering all the bodies to record how they were killed. Every crime is under investigation,” Gerashchenko said. He added: “We have had many conversations from the occupiers about how they say they killed civilians.”

The bodies of two men lie on a dirt road in Bucha.
The bodies of two men lie on a dirt road in Bucha. © Vadim Ghirda/AP

He added that the investigation is being conducted by the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine. “I think we have enough power here, but if we need expertise, of course anyone can help us,” he said, expressing skepticism about the effectiveness of international war crimes tribunals.

Iryna Venedyktova, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General, said that 410 bodies of civilians were recovered in areas around Kyiv over the weekend and 140 of them were already being examined by prosecutors while specialists took DNA samples.

“There is important evidence of Russia’s brutal war crimes on the cleared areas of the Kyiv region,” she said.

According to Ukrainian authorities, more than 50 national police officers and prosecutors are now involved in investigations in the areas of Kyiv and Chernihiv reclaimed by Russian forces. The attorney general’s office said it would increase the number of “investigators to ensure the fastest and most efficient collection of war crimes evidence.”

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday expressed “serious doubts” about reports of hundreds of civilians being murdered in Bucha. “From what we have seen, most of the video materials cannot be trusted because Department of Defense specialists have found evidence of video tampering and some forgeries or otherwise.”

But Gerashchenko suggested that the death toll from Russian forces may actually be much higher. “This is just the beginning,” he said. In Bucha, the gruesome work of gathering evidence of atrocities begins

Adam Bradshaw

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