Russian retreat leaves traces of civilians killed in town near kyiv

BUCHA, Ukraine, April 2 (Reuters) – Dead civilians still lay strewn in the streets of the Ukrainian town of Bucha on Saturday, three days after the invading Russian army withdrew from its abortive advance on kyiv towards the South East.

The smell of explosives still wafted through the cold, damp air, mingling with the stench of death.

Sixty-six-year-old Vasily, who did not give a surname, gazed at the sprawling remains of more than a dozen civilians strewn along the road outside his house, their faces disfigured with grief.

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Residents said they were killed by Russian troops during their month-long occupation.

To Vasily’s left, a man lay against a grassy edge next to his bicycle, his face sallow and his eyes sunken. Another lay in the middle of the road, a few meters from his front door. Vasily said he was his son’s godfather, a lifelong friend.

Bucha’s still unburied dead did not wear uniforms. They were civilians with bicycles, their stiff hands still clutching shopping bags. Some had clearly been dead for days or even weeks.

For the most part they were whole, and it was unclear whether they had been killed by shrapnel, an explosion or a bullet – but one was missing the top of its head.

“The bastards!” said Vasily, crying with rage in a thick coat and a woolen cap. “I’m sorry. The tank behind me was firing. Dogs!”

“We sat in the basement for two weeks. There was food but no light, no heater to keep warm. “We put the water on candles to warm it… We slept in felt boots.”


Local officials gave Reuters journalists access to the area, and a policeman led the way through the streets now patrolled by Ukrainian tanks to the road where the bodies lay.

It was not known why they had not yet been buried.

Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk said more than 300 townspeople had been killed and a mass grave on the grounds of a church was still open, with hands and feet poking through the red clay heaped over it.

Several streets were littered with the mangled wreckage of burnt-out Russian tanks and armored vehicles. Unexploded rockets lay on the road, and in one place an unexploded mortar shell had emerged from the tarmac.

A column of Ukrainian tanks patrolled, displaying blue and yellow national flags. A resident who had survived the ordeal hugged a soldier and shouted the military battle cry: “Glory to Ukraine, glory to the heroes!”

Mariya Zhelezova, 74, worked as a cleaner in an aircraft factory whose ill health prevented her from leaving before the Russians arrived.

Walking with her 50-year-old daughter, Iryna, she tearfully recalls her brush with death.

“The first time I walked out of the room and a bullet shattered the glass, the window, and got stuck in the dresser,” she said. “The second time, shards of glass almost entered my leg.

“The third time I was walking and I didn’t know he was standing with a gun and the bullets went right past me. When I got home I couldn’t speak.”

She pulled off a white cloth armband that she said residents had been ordered to wear.

“We don’t want them to come back,” she said. “I had a dream today – that they left and didn’t come back.”

The Kremlin and the Russian Defense Ministry in Moscow did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Written by Simon Gardner; Editing by Kevin Liffey

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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