On a Ukrainian street, a dead body with tied hands and a bullet wound to the head
BUCHA, Ukraine, April 4 (Reuters) – A man lay on the side of the road in the Ukrainian city of Bucha on Sunday, with his hands tied behind his back and a bullet to the head, one of hundreds of local residents who officials say has been was found dead in the wake of five weeks of Russian occupation.
Bucha’s deputy mayor Taras Shapravskyi said 50 of the dead residents found after Russian forces withdrew from the city at the end of last week were victims of extrajudicial executions by Russian troops, and officials accused Moscow of war crimes.
The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement released on Sunday that all photographs and videos published by Ukrainian authorities accusing Russian troops of “crimes” in Bucha were a “provocation” and no Bucha resident suffered violence at the hands of the troops. Russian.
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Reuters was unable to independently verify who was responsible for killing the dead residents.
But three bodies seen by Reuters reporters on Sunday – the body with its hands tied and two others who had no hands tied – carried bullets to the head consistent with what Bucha Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk and his deputy described as executions.
In all three cases, there were no signs of other significant injuries elsewhere on the body. All three people shot in the head were male and all three were dressed in civilian clothes.
On the body of the person whose hands were tied, there were dust burn marks on the lips and face. Such signs can mean that a person has been hit at close range.
The cloth used to tie the man’s hands appeared to be a white bracelet. Russian troops, while in Bucha, required local residents to wear bracelets to identify themselves, according to a woman who still wore his.
Reuters sent questions to the Kremlin and the Russian Defense Ministry about the bodies its reporters had witnessed, but received no immediate response.
The Russian Defense Ministry, in its statement on Sunday, said: “During the period in which the Russian military had control of this settlement, no local residents were subjected to violent actions.” He added that before Russian troops withdrew on March 30, they delivered 452 tons of humanitarian aid to civilians in the Kiev region.
Shapravskyi, the deputy mayor, said about 300 people were found dead after the Russian withdrawal. Of these, he said officials have so far recorded 50 as executions carried out by Russian forces. Reuters could not independently verify these figures.
The others were killed in the crossfire or their death is so far inexplicable.
“Any war has certain rules of engagement for civilians. The Russians proved they were knowingly killing civilians,” Fedoruk, the mayor, said while showing Reuters reporters one of the bodies.
Reuters also spoke to a local resident who described one person found dead after Russian troops detained her, and another resident who described two people found dead with gunshot wounds to the head.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the descriptions provided by the residents.
Sobbing as she pointed to her husband’s shallow grave, a shot of vodka topped with a cracker resting on freshly dug earth, Tetyana Volodymyrivna recounted an ordeal at the hands of Russian troops in this town 37 km (23 miles) northwest of Kiev.
She and her husband, a former Ukrainian marine, were dragged out of their apartment when Russian troops installed their command center in their building. Soldiers held them prisoners in the apartment building they lived in.
He said that the Russians, when they arrived in the city, asked people who they were and asked to see the documents.
He said a Russian forces fighter who he believed came from the semi-autonomous region of Russian Chechnya warned that he would “cut us to pieces”. He didn’t say how he knew he was Chechen.
Reuters sent a request for comment to the office of Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a Kremlin loyalist, but received no response.
Tetyana, who identified herself by name and patronymic but did not provide her surname, was released after being held for four days. Her husband was nowhere to be seen for several days, until she was told of some bodies in a basement staircase of the building where she and her husband lived.
“I recognized him from his sneakers, from his pants. He looked mutilated, his body was cold,” he said. “My neighbor still has a picture of his face. He was shot in the head, maimed, tortured.”
Reuters examined the photograph, which showed the face and body were severely mutilated. The news agency was unable to determine if there was a bullet wound.
After recovering her husband’s body, she and some neighbors buried it in a vegetable garden near their building, deep enough “for the dogs not to eat it,” she said.
Another Reuters reporter saw that another body still lay in the stairwell where her husband was found. Local residents covered the body with a sheet as a sign of dignity.
“TAKEN IN THE LEFT EYE”
Around the corner, another grave contained the remains of two men, a resident told Reuters. You said the men had been taken away by Russian troops. You did not witness them being killed. When the bodies were found, they had both been shot in the left eye, she said. Six other residents gathered near the grave said her account was correct.
One of the residents said she recognized one of the dead as a tenant in the apartment complex, who she said was a retired member of the Ukrainian army.
Bucha was captured in the days immediately following the February 24 invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces who moved south, capturing the defunct Chernobyl nuclear reactor and moving south to the capital.
Bucha and the northern outskirts of nearby Irpin were where the Russian advance from the northwest was halted after encountering unexpectedly fierce resistance from Ukrainian forces.
The area witnessed some of the bloodiest fighting in the battle for the capital, until Russian forces withdrew from north Kiev. Moscow said in late March it was reorganizing to focus on battles in eastern Ukraine.
On Saturday, Ukraine said its forces have recaptured all areas around Kiev and that it now has complete control of the capital region for the first time since the invasion.
On Sunday, the streets of Bucha were littered with unexploded ordnance. Rockets shot out of the asphalt near burnt tank wrecks. Some residents scribbled “Beware, Mines” on the walls with chalk after they found booby traps or missiles on their premises.
Resident Volodomir Kopachov said Russian troops installed a missile system in an empty lot near his garden. When a Reuters reporter visited, boxes of ammunition and used shells were littered on the ground.
Kopachov, a Ukrainian dog breeder, was in mourning.
He said his 33-year-old daughter, boyfriend and a friend were shot dead by Russian troops after a party streamer shot at them just days before the withdrawal. Kopachov’s wife said she shot the streamer as a gesture of defiance, not with the intent of harming the soldiers.
“It’s so hard to deal with it all,” the 69-year-old said, “as 10 Alabai, a fine Central Asian shepherd breed, barked in his yard.
Kopachov said he hadn’t ventured beyond the gates of his home for a month. “They were killing [people] on site. Nobody asked: ‘who are you, why are you out?’. The men were simply shot. “
The Kremlin denies invading Ukraine, saying it is carrying out a “special military operation” to degrade the Ukrainian military and is targeting military installations rather than carrying out attacks on civilian areas.
Speaking in Hostomel near Bucha on Sunday, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said: “This is not a special operation, these are not police actions … These are inhumane who have simply committed crimes against civilians.” .
(The story was re-archived to correct a spelling in paragraph 3)
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Additional reports by Zohra Bensemra and Sergiy Karazy Editing by Christian Lowe
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