Russian withdrawal leaves behind civilian deaths in a town near Kyiv

BUCHA, Ukraine (Reuters) – Dead civilians still littered the streets of the Ukrainian town of Bucha on Saturday, three days after the invading Russian army withdrew from its failed advance on Kyiv to the southeast.

The smell of explosives was still suspended in the cool, moist air, mingling with the stench of death.

Sixty-six-year-old Vasily, whose name was not given, looked at the sprawling remains of more than a dozen civilians scattered along the road outside his house, his face distorted with sadness.

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Residents said they were killed by Russian forces within a month of the occupation.

To Vasily’s left, a man lay on a grassy ledge next to his bicycle, his face pale and his eyes sunken. Another lay in the middle of the road, a few meters from his door. Vasily said that he is the godfather of his son, a friend for life.

The Bucha dead who were not buried did not wear any formal attire. They were civilians with bicycles, their ragged hands still holding shopping bags. Apparently some have died for days, if not weeks.

Mostly, they were complete, and it wasn’t clear if they were killed by shrapnel, explosion or bullet – but one of them had lost the top of his head.

“Bastards!” said Vasily, crying angrily, in a thick overcoat and a woolen hat. “I’m sorry. The tank behind me was shooting. Dogs!”

“We’ve been sitting in the basement for two weeks. There was food but no light, and no heating to keep warm.” We put water on candles to warm it… We slept in felt shoes.”

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open grave

Local officials allowed Reuters reporters to enter the area, and a policeman led the way through streets guarded by Ukrainian tanks to the road where the bodies lay.

It is not clear why they were not buried yet.

More than 300 townspeople have been killed, Mayor Anatoly Fedoruk said, a mass grave in one church hall remains open, hands and feet littered with red mud piled above it.

The wreckage of burnt Russian tanks and armored vehicles was scattered in several streets. Unexploded missiles fell on the road, and in one place an unexploded mortar shell came out of the runway.

A column of Ukrainian tanks patrolled, flying blue and yellow national flags. One of the residents who survived the ordeal hugged a soldier, and let out a military battle cry: “Glory to Ukraine, glory to the heroes!”

Maria Zhelezova, 74, was a cleaner at an aircraft factory whose poor health stopped her leaving before the Russians came.

She was walking with her 50-year-old daughter Irina, and remembered her tears brushing with death.

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

“The third time, I was walking and I didn’t know he was standing with a gun in hand and the bullets went right from my side. When I got home, I couldn’t speak.”

She removed a hand tie from the white cloth that she said the residents had been ordered to wear.

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

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

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Writing by Simon Gardner; Editing by Kevin Levy

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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