The smell of death lingers long after occupation.
More than five months after Russian forces left Kyiv’s suburbs, bodies are still being found in shallow graves.
There’s a stench of decomposing flesh in the air. Police searching a woodland for mines just outside Bucha have found two men who have clearly been dead for months. Officers tell us one body shows signs of possible torture.
“We see that he has physical injuries: his hands are tied with a hat on his head and tape around his neck,” says Andriy Niebytov, the Kyiv Region police chief.
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The face of one person is covered and what looks like thick tape appears wrapped around his torso.
These are two of eighteen bodies police say they’ve recently exhumed in this small area. One is so decomposed his body is now in two parts. The lower half is lifted on to a stretcher by the belt of his trousers. A jacket bearing a Ukrainian crest is used to lift the rest.
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“We understand now that the second man is a civilian and was tortured. He had been riding on his bicycle near to Russian positions and he was detained, tortured, and then executed” police chief Niebytov says.
“Recently we discovered a pit with seven bodies of murdered Ukrainian civilians who were brutally tortured before being killed. Their limbs, knees, or hands were shot, we saw that their hands were tied and their eyes were blindfolded, and we believe they were tortured for a long time before being executed.”
A burned out garage and bones doused in gasoline
From the edge of the woodland, there’s a clear view of Kyiv’s skyline and its surrounding area. Police say it was used as a strategic position by Russian forces in the spring. The bodies they’re finding buried here are among more than two hundred people who remain missing from this region after Moscow called off its failed advance on the Ukrainian capital in April.
Vadym Evdokymenko didn’t know where his father was for months. Just 20-years-old, he was training in Kyiv to be a hairstylist when the war broke out. Russian forces invaded the pretty suburb of Bucha where he lived with his parents.
Suddenly life became all about survival.
He last heard from his father on 2 March. After losing contact, Vadym managed to escape Bucha with his mother seven days later. He’s now learned his father sought refuge in a garage with four other people after Russian forces entered the town. Vadym took us to the garage in a residential area – it’s completely burned out.
“I heard different versions. Someone said that they threw a grenade in here and closed it from the outside,” says Vadym.
“But during the investigation, ten bullet casings were found inside and the bones were doused with gasoline.”
It was only in June when a prosecutor sent Vadym photographs of his father’s body and ID that he learned he’d died.
Image: Vadym Evdokymenko didn’t know where his father was for months
Justice in a country consumed by war feels remote
Vadym knows the nickname of one of the soldiers who he believes is behind his father’s death. But the idea of prosecution or justice while the country is still consumed by war feels remote.
The Mayor of Bucha tells me 93% of the bodies found here after Russian forces left had bullet wounds. Anatoliy Fedoruk says more than 400 people were killed during Bucha’s 33 days of occupation out of the 3,500 residents who remained.
It’s feared even worse may emerge in the recently liberated north east. A mass burial site is still being exhumed in Izyum – after Russian forces occupied the Kharkiv region for nearly half a year.
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Around a fifth of Ukraine remains under Russian control and it’s feared there are many more Buchas and Izyums. We just don’t know about them yet.
Bucha’s Mayor says the fight for justice is another Ukraine needs to win. “If this does not happen, we will have the same tragic events, the same atrocities by Russian troops in other parts of the world.”
Source : Sky News