Ukrainian mayor shows dead bodies amid battle-scarred city of Bucha
By Simon Gardner*
BUCHA, Ukraine (Reuters) – The mayor of a recently liberated Ukrainian city accused Russian troops on Sunday of deliberately killing civilians during their month-long occupation of his town, allegations that Russia’s defence ministry denied.
The mayor of Bucha, Anatoliy Fedoruk, showed a Reuters team two corpses with white cloth tied around their arms which he said was what residents were forced to wear by fighters from Chechnya, a region in southern Russia that has deployed troops to Ukraine to support Russian forces.
One corpse had his hands bound by the white cloth, and appeared to have been shot in the mouth.
Russia’s defence ministry issued a statement on Sunday saying that all photographs and videos published by the Ukrainian authorities alleging “crimes” by Russian troops in Bucha were a “provocation.”
Bucha lies 37 km (23 miles) northwest of Kyiv city and this weekend when journalists visited and the authorities began making allegations of atrocities, it was a scene of shattered buildings and streets strewn with corpses.
“Any war has some rules of engagement for civilians. The Russians have demonstrated that they were consciously killing civilians,” Fedoruk said.
Fedoruk said on Saturday that more than 300 residents of the town had been killed.
Reuters, which was taken to the scene by Ukrainian authorities, was not immediately able to verify the mayor’s allegations.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a Putin ally, said in a statement on Feb. 26 that Chechen forces would be fighting in Ukraine as part of Russia’s special military operation, which was launched two days earlier.
Reuters was unable to determine if they operated in Bucha. A spokesman for Kadyrov did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In its statement, the Russian defence ministry said further that “During the time that Russian armed forces were in control of this settlement, not a single local resident suffered from any violent actions”. It added that before Russian troops withdrew on March 30 they delivered 452 tons of humanitarian aid to civilians around the Kyiv region.
“For the entire time that the city was under the control of the Russian armed forces and, and afterwards, until today, in Bucha, local residents freely moved around the city and used cellular communications,” the ministry said.
On Saturday Ukraine said its forces had retaken all areas around Kyiv and that it now had complete control of the capital region for the first time since the Russian invasion began on Feb 24.