Bodies litter street of death in Ukrainian town

Bucha (Ukraine) (AFP) – The bodies are strewn across the quiet tree-lined street of the town of Bucha as far as the eye can see.

All 20 are in civilian clothes, and all have their different poses in death. Some are lying with blind eyes staring at the overcast Ukrainian sky, others are lying face down on the tarmac.

Three of them are tangled in bicycles after completing their final lap, while others, waxen-skinned, have fallen beside bullet-riddled and crushed cars.

One has his hands tied behind his back with a white cloth, and his Ukrainian passport left open next to his corpse, said AFP journalists who visited the town.

Another sits next to a spray-painted yellow sign with happy and sad emojis and the words “Live Fast.”

Russia’s hasty withdrawal from its occupation of the region around kyiv reveals new devastation every day.

“All these people were shot, killed, in the back of the head,” Mayor Anatoly Fedoruk told AFP.

A further 280 people were buried in mass graves in Bucha while the bodies of entire families still lie in wrecked cars, he said.

Surrounded by pine forests that stretch into Belarus, Bucha was the image of a sleepy suburb northwest of the Ukrainian capital until the Russian invasion.

A month of fierce battles in towns like Bucha and nearby Irpin prevented Moscow forces from encircling kyiv about 25 kilometers (14 miles).

“Russian Occupation”

The cost was utter devastation.

Gaping holes caused by shell blasts can be seen in building after building, while crushed cars litter the streets, said the AFP team which reached Bucha after being closed to the world for nearly a month. month.

Supermarkets, cafes and houses are set on fire or destroyed, a church roof damaged. Only one McDonalds appears to have escaped intact.

Russia’s hasty withdrawal from its occupation of the region around kyiv reveals new devastation every day RONALDO SCHEMIDT AFP

Bodies lie haphazardly in the city: outside a train station, on the side of a road.

But the violence that has descended on this street alone appears to be more systematic.

The victims, who all appeared to be men, are strewn across several hundred yards of debris-strewn tarmac.

Sixteen of the 20 bodies lay either on the sidewalk or on the curb. Three were sprawled in the middle of the road, and another was lying on its side in the yard of a destroyed house

Some are lying in a group, like the two men lying face up in a puddle next to each other, one in a green parka and the other in a black jacket.

Others died alone. The cyclist with orange gloves and a black balaclava lying on his side with his bike on him, as if he had fallen and could not get up.

All wore civilian clothes – winter coats, jackets or track tops, jeans or jogging bottoms, sneakers or boots.

An elderly woman collects wood to heat her house in Bucha
An elderly woman collects wood to heat her house in Bucha RONALDO SCHEMIDT AFP

Violence is everywhere: a silver car is riddled with bullets, another is partly crushed, while a burnt-out van lies near a group of bodies.

“These are the consequences of the Russian occupation”, explains the mayor.

Yet the horrors of war have become so routine in Bucha that the remaining residents walk down the street past the bodies, barely glancing.

‘They are running’

Ukrainian forces have just secured Bucha and started their first aid deliveries on Saturday, so the dead may have to go unburied for a bit longer.

Soldiers distribute food and medicine to desperate survivors from the back of a green military truck. Another body lies under a sheet about 100 meters away.

It is the first such delivery in more than a month, after Ukraine said on Saturday that Russian forces were making a “swift retreat” from kyiv.

A Ukrainian soldier patrols a street in Bucha
A Ukrainian soldier patrols a street in Bucha RONALDO SCHEMIDT AFP

“They’re running,” said Yuriy Biriukov, a senior member of Ukraine’s volunteer territorial defense squad overseeing the aid operation.

Bucha residents were “still very scared, still shocked”, he added.

“Ordinary civilians cannot even imagine the conditions they lived in for that month, with artillery, no rood and waer supplies, no possibility of getting out.”

A resident showed AFP what he said was a grave, topped with a green wooden cross, in the back garden of a nearby house where four people including a child were buried.

The people who have stayed at Bucha are mostly elderly people.

At an outdoor soup kitchen, a group of elderly people stir pots of borscht and simmer on a makeshift stove next to a yellow Lada car with flat tires.

Russian soldiers broke into apartments on the top floor of their Soviet-era building, stole items and asked an elderly woman if she had weapons, they say.

Then on Tuesday they counted more than 70 Russian armored vehicles coming out of the city, in the opposite direction to kyiv. The shelling ceased on Thursday.

“If there will be peace, everything will be wonderful,” says 82-year-old Nadia Protopopova.

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