In a suburb of kyiv, "they shot everyone they saw"

BUCHA, Ukraine – When a column of Russian tanks entered the kyiv suburb of Bucha in the early days of the war, Tetiana Pomazanko thought...


BUCHA, Ukraine – When a column of Russian tanks entered the kyiv suburb of Bucha in the early days of the war, Tetiana Pomazanko thought they were detaining Ukrainian soldiers and came out to her front door to see.

But the troops opened fire on Ms Pomazanko, 56. Bullets went through the wooden gate and the fence around her house, killing her instantly. Her body still lay in the garden on Sunday, where her 76-year-old mother had covered her as best she could with plastic sheeting and wooden planks.

“They were driving down the street,” said her mother, Antonina Pomazanko. “She thought they were ours.”

Ms Pomazanko’s murder is just one of dozens of days uncovered after Russian troops withdrew from outlying suburbs of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, after weeks of fierce fighting. On Sunday, Ukrainians were still finding deaths in construction sites and on the roads amid mounting evidence that civilians had been killed deliberately and indiscriminately.

Serhiy Kaplishny is a coroner in Bucha who worked there from February 24, the day of the invasion, until March 10, when he fled. He returned to Bucha on Saturday. He said that, so far, his team had recovered more than 100 bodies during and after the fighting and the Russian occupation.

Mr Kaplishny said that before he left Bucha – as back-and-forth battles raged and then the Russian military established control – he had buried 57 bodies in a cemetery. Fifteen of these people had died of natural causes, the others from gunshot wounds, including at point-blank range, or from shrapnel. Three of the bodies were those of Ukrainian soldiers, he said.

Before leaving town in March, he said, he had arranged for a local digger operator to dig a mass grave in the yard of an Orthodox church. Without electricity for refrigeration, the morgue had become unbearable, and another solution was needed. “It was a horror,” he said.

After he left, the mass grave was filled with around 40 bodies, he said, of people who died during the Russian occupation. Local coroners from his office who remained in the city had recovered some of those bodies, he said.

During a Sunday visit to the mass grave – around a dozen meters long and two meters wide – a pile of excavated earth lay nearby to pile on top of bodies. In one corner, two pairs of shoes and an arm protruded from a thin layer of dirt, and in another, a hand protruded. Along with the pile, half a dozen black body bags had been dumped into the pit.

At the end of the day, back in town, he said he picked up about 30 more bodies in a white van. Thirteen of them were men who had their hands tied and had been shot in the head at close range. He said he did not know the circumstances of their deaths but believed, based on their apparently recent deaths, that they were prisoners killed before the withdrawal of the Russian army.

“They were civilians,” Mr Kaplishny said, showing cellphone photos of dead men in civilian clothes with their hands tied behind their backs and in one case in front.

In the footage, eight bodies with their hands tied lay in the yard of a house and five in a basement, he said. “Look, that one was shot in the eye,” Mr Kaplishny said.

The reckless shooting of Ms. Pomazanko at 10 a.m. on February 27 was one of the first actions of Russian troops in Bucha.

After her mother covered her daughter’s body, she said, “I buried her in the night for a bit.

“There was so much shelling, I didn’t know what to do,” she added.

Sunday, in the yard, the feet of the dead woman, in woolen stockings and clogs, stuck out under the planks, along the path where she had stopped.

Svitlana Munich, a former classmate of the deceased woman, stood nearby in tears. “They shot everyone they saw,” she said of the Russians. “They also shot the gas pipe and his mother was in the house.”

The Russian troops also suffered terrible casualties on the first day as they advanced further into the city.

A main thoroughfare in Bucha — Vokzalnaya, or Station Street — was impassable on Sunday, strewn with destroyed Russian tanks and armored vehicles, downed cables and scorched debris. Dozens of Russian soldiers were killed, residents said, when the column of Russian tanks came under drone attack.

Several of the houses on one side of the street caught fire, but some of the Russian soldiers who survived the blast escaped into people’s yards, residents said. Two bodies in the garden of a house further down the street were likely those of Russian soldiers, said Kostiantyn Momotov, who lived nearby.

The men had taken off their army uniforms and boots, he said, showing a camouflage jacket on the ground, and put on civilian clothes, possibly to avoid capture, he said. he says. Both men had been shot in the head.

After the drone attack on the column, it took a week before Russian reinforcements arrived on March 4 and took control of Bucha, several residents said. After that, the Russians parked their tanks at major intersections and in people’s yards and carried out house-to-house searches, they said.

Russian troops commandeered Iryna and Roman Davidovych’s house, a large three-story villa at one of the main intersections, and parked armored vehicles at each corner of the yard. Russian soldiers seized their phones and computers, they said, and took over the house, pulling mattresses from the beds and laying them on the floor in the main living room. Evicted, the Davidovychs remained in the cellar.

“We were sitting in the cellar,” Mr. Davidovych said. “Shells were flying and bombs.

“I have a lot of Russian friends, but those men weren’t good,” Ms Davidovych said. Some of the men were in their 40s and appeared to be experienced soldiers, she said. They sat in upstairs rooms and fired from windows on the streets below, she said, opening the window to show.

At the intersection next to the house, a body in bright blue fleece lay hunched over the steering wheel of a crashed car. It is not known how the person died, but the car appears to have been run over by an armored vehicle.

“They were shooting, shooting,” Ms Davidovych said. “And they made a terrible mess and stole things.” Most of the time the soldiers took socks and T-shirts, she said. But her husband showed where they had pulled two safes into the yard with their tanks and smashed them.

There were also young soldiers, Ms Davidovych said. One, called Vanya, was just 19 and told them he dreamed of being injured and sent home.

“He understood that they were occupiers,” she said.

Galina Levitskaya, 60, a retired teacher, said she had no negative experiences with Russian conscripted soldiers patrolling the city. She was under the impression, she said, that they had been ordered to be polite and share their meal rations, which they did. “They helped us carry bags,” she said.

A unit of Chechen fighters, bearded and dressed in black uniforms, searched door to door, she said. If an occupier opened the door, she said, the fighters usually just looked for weapons and left. If no one opened the door, she said, they would break in to search.

Others fared less. Vitaly Sinadin, a 45-year-old sculptor who hobbled in a street on Sunday afternoon, said he was tied to a metal pole for two days in a cinderblock house used by Russian forces as a base.

“They beat me saying, ‘Where are the Ukrainian soldiers?’ and ‘Who in town is in the Home Defense Force?’ – a reference to the volunteer units that sprung up in the early days of the Russian invasion. A sprawling red and black bruise covering his thighs and back matched his account of heavy beatings.

Sunday afternoon, on a road leading west from Bucha, a man lay dead on his back, his green bicycle overturned beside him. Hit by a bullet in the face, he had a large hole in the back of his skull.

Further up this road – in a clearing in a pine forest on the edge of the village of Dmytrivka – police had earlier in the day pulled the body of a Russian soldier, his face and uniform burned, from the turret of an explosive tank. His documents showed he was 22 and from Buratyia in eastern Siberia.

In the late afternoon, the destroyed tanks were sprinkled with a snowstorm that blew over kyiv. In this silent and eerie scene, the soldier’s body still lay unrecovered.

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Newsrust - US Top News: In a suburb of kyiv, "they shot everyone they saw"
In a suburb of kyiv, "they shot everyone they saw"
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