Bodies with bound hands, close-range gunshot wounds and signs of torture lay scattered in a city on the outskirts of Kyiv after Russian soldiers withdrew from the area. Ukrainian authorities on Sunday accused the departing forces of committing war crimes and leaving behind a “scene from a horror movie”.
As images of the bodies – of people whom residents said were killed indiscriminately – began to emerge from Bucha, a slew of European leaders condemned the atrocities and called for tougher sanctions against Moscow.
AP journalists saw the bodies of at least 21 people in various spots around Bucha, northwest of the capital. One group of nine, all in civilian clothes, were scattered around a site that residents said Russian troops used as a base. They appeared to have been killed at close range. At least two had their hands tied behind their backs, and one of those was shot in the head; another’s legs were bound.
Ukrainian officials laid the blame for the killings – which they said happened in Bucha and other Kyiv suburbs – squarely at the feet of Russian troops, with the president calling them evidence of genocide. But Russia’s defence ministry rejected the accusations as “provocation”.
The discoveries followed the Russian retreat from the area around the capital, territory that has seen heavy fighting since troops invaded Ukraine from three directions on February 24. Troops who swept in from Belarus to the north spent weeks trying to clear a path to Kyiv, but their advance stalled in the face of resolute defence from Ukraine’s forces.
Moscow now says it is focusing its offensive on the country’s east, but it also pressed a siege on a city in the north and continued to strike cities elsewhere in a war that has already forced more than four million Ukrainians to flee their country, and many more to leave their homes.
Russian troops rolled into Bucha in the early days of the invasion and stayed up to March 30. With those forces gone, residents gave harrowing accounts on Sunday, saying soldiers shot and killed civilians without any apparent reason.
One resident, who refused to give his name, fearing for his safety, said that Russian troops went building to building and took people out of the basements where they were hiding, checking their phones for any evidence of anti-Russian activity and taking them away or shooting them.
Hanna Herega, a resident of Bucha, said Russian troops shot a neighbour who had gone out to gather wood for heating.
“He went to get some wood when all of a sudden they (Russians) started shooting. They hit him a bit above the heel, crushing the bone, and he fell down,” Herega said. “Then they shot off his left leg completely, with the boot. Then they shot him all over (the chest). And another shot went slightly below the temple. It was a controlled shot to the head.”
The AP also saw two bodies, that of a man and a woman, wrapped in plastic that residents said they had covered and placed in a shaft until a proper funeral could be arranged.
The resident who refused to be identified said the man was killed as he left a home.
“He put his hands up, and they shot him,” he said.
“This is genocide,” Zelenskyy told CBS’ ‘Face the Nation’on Sunday.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko called on other nations to immediately end Russian gas imports, saying they were funding the killings.
“Not a penny should go to Russia any more,” Klitschko told German newspaper Bild. “That’s bloody money used to slaughter people. The gas and oil embargo must come immediately.”