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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Bucha: The epicenter of Russian atrocity

Widespread destruction across Bucha, a town near Kyiv.

By Carlotta Gall

The overwhelming majority of the dead were civilians, shot in their cars as they tried to escape, in their homes and gardens as they dared to venture outside, usually just to fetch bread or water. Scores were executed in yards and on the street or in cellars where they had been detained.

This was Bucha. A pretty northern suburb of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, with weekend cottages and new apartment complexes set among fir tree forests, it emerged as a haunting ground zero of Russian atrocities.

When Russia withdrew its troops from the northern suburbs of Kyiv at the end of March, it granted Ukrainians a great reprieve from the daily bombing and shelling. But the Russians left a trail of destruction and many, many dead. The scale and manner of the killings became apparent only in the days and weeks after the Russian withdrawal, shaking the country and outraging the wider world.

Occupied by Russian troops for a little more than one month, Bucha suffered waves of violence first as fighting raged in its streets and left the burned carcasses of Russian tanks blocking a whole avenue.

Later, as the front line shifted further south, Bucha became a second line of defense. Russian troops parked their vehicles in the yards of houses and occupied homes. They ordered residents off the streets or into basements. They detained men of fighting age, and assaulted women.

Most were local residents, men and women, young and old, families, and even children. Their bodies were often left where they had fallen or were buried by families or neighbors in their backyards.

More than 1,300 people were killed in the wider Kyiv region during the Russian occupation — 86% of them in Bucha district, and 419 people in the suburb of Bucha itself, Andrii Nebytov, the head of regional police, said this past week.

The dead included the mother of Tetiana Sichkar, 20, shot in the forehead as she walked with her family from fetching a thermos of hot water; and two sisters, a retired teacher and her disabled sibling, who lived together on a small side street.

They also included Dmitrii Shkirenkov, 38, a Moldovan builder, stranded by war at his construction site and executed on video by Russian soldiers; and Roman Havryliuk, 43, a welder, his brother Serhiy Dukhli, 46, and a third man, shot in their yard when Russian troops took over their house.

“They were not able to defeat our army,” Havryliuk’s son, Nazar, 17, said, “so they killed ordinary people.”

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