Ukraine: Russia’s retreat leaves traces of civilians killed near Kyiv

BUCHA, UKRAINE – Dead civilians still littered the streets of the Ukrainian town of Bucha on Saturday, three days after invading Russian troops retreated from their devastating advance in Kyiv to the southeast.

The smell of explosives still lingered in the cold, murky air, mixed with the stench of death.

The 66-year-old Vasily, who did not give his last name, looked at the sprawling remains of more than a dozen civilians scattered along the road outside his house, his face disfigured with grief.

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

To Vasily’s left, a man lay leaning on the grass beside his bicycle, his face haggard and his eyes sunken. Another was lying in the middle of the street, a few meters from the front door. Vasily said it was his son’s godfather, a lifelong friend.

Bucha’s still-unburied dead don’t wear uniforms. They are ordinary people with bicycles, stiff hands still clutching shopping bags. Some were clearly dead for days, if not weeks.

For the most part, they were intact, and it is not clear if they were killed by shrapnel, an explosion or a bullet – but one person lost the crown of his head.

“The bastards!” said Vasily, crying with rage in his thick coat and beanie. “I’m sorry. The tank behind me was shot. The dogs!”

“We sat in the cellar for two weeks. There was food but no light, no fireplace to keep warm.” We pour water on the candle to warm it… We sleep in felt boots. “


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

It is not clear why they are still not buried.

Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk said more than 300 of the town’s residents had been killed, and a mass grave at a church site was still open, with hands and feet poking through the red clay above.

Some streets are littered with burned wrecks of Russian tanks and armored vehicles. Unexploded rockets lay on the road and in one place an unexploded mortar shell peeked out from the runway.

A Ukrainian tank pole patrols, flying the national flag in blue and yellow. A civilian who survived the ordeal hugged a soldier and cried out the birth of the army: “Glory to Ukraine, glory to heroes!”

Mariya Zhelezova, 74, works as a cleaner at an aircraft factory, her ill health forced her to leave before the Russians arrived.

Walking with her daughter Iryna, 50, she tearfully recalls the brushes when she died.

“The first time, I came out of the room and a bullet broke the glass, the window and got stuck in the closet,” she said. “The second time, the broken glass almost hit my leg.

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

She removed a white cloth armband she said residents had been ordered to wear.

“We don’t want them 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.

(Written by Simon Gardner; Edited by Kevin Liffey)

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