The horrors in Bucha: Mass graves, rape, and now Russian torture room uncovered
As Ukraine takes back the city, full scale of horrors comes to light, putting the spotlight on claims of war crimes that Russia denies
41 days into its "special military operations", things couldn't be going worse for Russia. Not only are Russian troops being forced out of cities they once captured, but there is now growing evidence of war crimes they committed. The best example of this is Bucha, a small city on the outskirts of Kyiv. Ukrainian forces retook the city over the weekend on April 2 and 3, after Russian forces pulled out, leaving behind some truly horrific sights.
The claims of Russian war crimes have been going on ever since the invasion began in late February. On March 17, video footage emerged of a Ukrainian civilian being gunned down, while he had his hands up in surrender. Then on March 19, the Mariupol City Council claimed residents were forced into Nazi-style "filtration camps", from where they were being taken to Russia. The indiscriminate bombing has also hit schools, hospitals, and other civilian structures despite Russia's claim it was only targeting military structures.
However, the real horrors of war are now visible in the remains of Bucha, with bodies lining the street, and other horrific discoveries were made. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksyy toured the remains of Bucha on April 4, 2022, while the west woke up to see the ghastly images and videos, as uploaded by Ukraine.
Warning: this article contains graphic descriptions and images that may not be suitable for all readers.
The horrors of Bucha come to light
Over the weekend, journalists and Ukrainian military officials discovered mass graves in Bucha, a sight that was also captured on satellite images. The 14m grave was spotted near the church of St Andrew and Pyervozvannoho All Saints, believed to contain at least 150 bodies. On one street, the lifeless bodies of 20 men were found, with their hands tied behind their back. "They were shot in the back of their heads. So you can imagine what kind of lawlessness they perpetrated here," Bucha mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk said to Reuters.
Other civilians were run over by tanks, while Ukraine also discovered the burnt bodies of naked women, likely after they were raped. It is believed the bodies on the streets have been lying there for at least 20 days before the Russian withdrawal. Then on April 4, Ukraine's Prosecutor General’s Office took to Facebook to post photos of a Russian torture room discovered in the city.
"In the basement of one of the children's sanatoriums, law enforcement officers discovered the bodies of five men with their hands tied. Soldiers of the Russian Federation armed forces tortured unarmed civilians and then killed them," the post said. The claims have not been independently verified, but Ukraine said it has documented the room as part of its efforts to document Russian war crimes.
The West reacts to Bucha images
The discoveries have been panned globally, including by Human Rights Watch (HRW). "The cases we documented amount to unspeakable, deliberate cruelty and violence against Ukrainian civilians," HRW's Europe and Central Asia director said in a statement. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called the images "a punch to the gut," and UK's Foreign Secretary Liz Truss also called for a war crimes investigation following the images.
Zelenskyy weighed in, saying, "The world has already seen many war crimes. At different times. On different continents. But it is time to do everything possible to make the war crimes of the Russian military the last manifestation of such evil on earth." He also dubbed the situation a "genocide". US President Joe Biden doubled down on his criticism of Vladimir Putin, telling reporters "You may remember I got criticized for calling Putin a war criminal. Well, the truth of the matter – we saw it happen in Bucha – he is a war criminal."
For its part, Russia has reverted to its standard template perfected after years of war in Syria. It called the photos and videos "staged" and said, "not a single local resident has suffered from any violent action." The discovery has led to a new round of sanctions by the west, which includes the expulsion of diplomats. Further sanctions are being discussed and likely to be implemented in a matter of days.