Russian forces have killed a village head, her husband and her son, Ukrainian officials say. This – and the discovery of the bodies of five men dressed in civilian clothes – has added to growing evidence of atrocities on the ground in Ukraine. The BBC’s Yogita Limaye has been to visit the two scenes.
In the town of Bucha, just outside Kyiv, the horror of what unfolded during the Russian occupation is finally coming to light.
In the basement of a building that once housed a children’s community centre, five bodies lay crumpled on the ground – five men dressed in civilian clothes, their hands bound behind their backs.
Some were shot in the head, others in the chest. They were yet to be identified, but Ukrainian officials said the men were taken hostage by Russian soldiers and executed.
“We heard them being shot,” said Vlad, one of the volunteers who carried the bodies up from the basement. “We heard mines go off in the area. Around us there are mines. We are lucky we are alive.”
Vlad described hearing a husband calling after his wife who went out into the street to get water, then a volley of shots. Later he found both husband and wife dead. “I can tell you so many stories but I don’t want to,” he said. “I want to forget them.”
Not far away, in the village of Motoyzhyn, four bodies lay in a shallow grave in the woods. Three have been identified – 51-year-old Olha Sukhenko, her husband Igor and her son Oleksander, who was 25.
Olha was the head of the village. It is believed that she and her family were killed on suspicion of helping Ukrainian soldiers, and left on the edge of the woods, half-buried, Olha’s hand and her son’s face visible through the dirt.
The Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky visited Bucha on Monday. “We want you to show the world what happened here, what the Russian military did, what the Russian Federation did in peaceful Ukraine. It was important for you to see that these were civilians,” he said.
He said Ukraine was still prepared to negotiate with Russia. “Ukraine deserves peace,” he told the BBC. “We can’t live with war. Every day our army is fighting, but we don’t want the lives of millions to be lost. That’s why we have to have dialogue with Russia.”
Elsewhere in Bucha, there were reports of a mass grave, dug to accommodate bodies from the overflowing morgue. Images and video footage showed dead civilians with their hands tied behind their backs. Evidence was mounting by the hour on Monday of grave atrocities in this once peaceful city.
The mayor, Anatoliy Fedoruk, said that at least 300 civilians had been killed. There is no official tally yet. Russia has denied any involvement, claiming that the visual evidence had all been faked, but its denials have been met with outrage. Its broken-down, burned-out tanks littered one long road into Bucha.
We now know some of what happened here, just west of Kyiv. But there are more cities and towns across Ukraine that are still under Russian control. The fear is that what was found here will be found elsewhere, that there will be more bodies in basements and shallow graves.