The Ukrainian town has suffered mass executions, torture and rape by Russian troops. The EU accuses Moscow of war crimes and proposes new sanctions, including energy sanctions

Bucha massacre reflects atrocities of Russian invasion of Ukraine

photo_camera AFP/SERGEI SUPINSKY - A partially buried body is seen in a mass grave in the town of Bucha, northwest of the Ukrainian capital Kiev, on April 3, 2022.

Bucha will be remembered as one of the most violent and brutal episodes of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The town, located some 30 kilometres from Kiev, joins other parts of the world that have suffered the worst consequences of the war: mass executions, torture, rape, looting.

Russian troops arrived in the Ukrainian city in the first days of the war and remained there until 30 March, when Moscow announced plans to focus its military operation in the east of the country. The scene that the Ukrainian army and international journalists encountered days after the Russian withdrawal reflects the ultimate barbarism of the war. Lifeless bodies bound in manacles, corpses with signs of torture, mass graves, tanks destroyed and abandoned. To these desolate images are added the testimonies of those who survived and witnessed the violence perpetrated by the Russian soldiers. 

Ucrania y los pa铆ses occidentales acusaron el domingo a las tropas rusas de cr铆menes de guerra tras el descubrimiento de fosas comunes y civiles "ejecutados" cerca de Kiev, lo que provoc贸 promesas de acci贸n en la Corte Penal Internacional AFP/SERGEI SUPINSKY

As citizens told the Associated Press, Russian troops "went from building to building and pulled people out of the basements where they were hiding". The aim was to find some kind of 'anti-Russian' activity. However, as residents of Bucha claim, many people were killed for no apparent reason. Soldiers shot at citizens who went out to look for food, medicine, firewood for heating or help

Many of the men were killed in cold blood, others tortured in various ways, including electric shocks, as citizens told the RTVE team. "They were not allowed to leave through the humanitarian corridors and were instead shot as they fled across an open field," a resident of Bucha told The Guardian.

"Bodies were strewn on the pavements and some of the dead had been crushed by tanks," he adds. Even old men were killed in front of their wives. "They shot him dead and ordered the woman to leave," another witness who witnessed the killing of an elderly man told the British newspaper.

El cuerpo sin vida de un hombre con las manos atadas a la espalda yace en el suelo en Bucha, Ucrania, el domingo 3 de abril de 2022 AP/VADIM GHIRDA
Rape as a weapon of war 

The citizens of Bucha, on the other hand, suffered the atrocities that women suffer in armed conflicts. With the beginning of the Russian invasion on 24 February, fears of rape and sexual assault among Ukrainian women also arose, an aspect shared by all invading troops and conflicts that regard rape as a weapon of war.

Bucha has been no exception. Among the corpses, Ukrainian journalists and soldiers found naked women, some of them partially burned, as was the case reported by photographer Mikhail Palinchak. Oleksiy Arestovych, Zelensky's adviser, told AP that Russian soldiers raped many women in the town before killing them and then burning their bodies. 

Los civiles aplauden junto a un militar ucraniano mientras un convoy de veh铆culos militares y de ayuda llega al suburbio de Bucha, Ucrania, anteriormente ocupado por Rusia, el s谩bado 2 de abril de 2022 AP/VADIM GHIRDA

However, there are reports of sexual assaults in other cities in the country. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports the testimony of a 31-year-old woman who was repeatedly raped by a Russian soldier in a village in the Kharkov region. In addition to sexually assaulting her, the soldier physically abused her and cut off her face and part of her hair.

Mariupol is another town where sexual assaults have been reported. Olga Rudenko, editor-in-chief of The Kyiv Independent, has reported a heartbreaking case against a group of girls as young as 10 years old. Meanwhile, Ukrainian intelligence services have released intercepted audio of a Russian serviceman confessing to a family member that members of his brigade raped a 16-year-old girl

Los cuerpos de los civiles asesinados por las fuerzas rusas, seg煤n los residentes, son arrojados en un pozo de hormig贸n ya que la gente no pudo transportarlos a un cementerio en Bucha, Ucrania, el domingo 3 de abril de 2022 AP/VADIM GHIRDA

But violence against women does not only come from Russian troops. According to Bethan McKernan, a correspondent for The Guardian, in Vinnytsia, a village in the west of the country, a teacher reported to the police that a member of the territorial defence services dragged her into the school library and tried to rape her. The man was subsequently arrested.

"Rape is an under-reported crime and is a stigmatised issue even in peacetime. I am worried that what we discover is just the tip of the iceberg," Kateryna Cherepakha, chairwoman of La Strada Ukraine, an association that helps survivors of trafficking and sexual violence, told the newspaper.

Un cuerpo con las manos atadas con una tela blanca, que seg煤n los residentes fue disparado por soldados rusos, yace en la calle, en medio de la invasi贸n rusa sobre Ucrania, en Bucha, Ucrania el 3 de abril de 2022 REUTERS/ZOHRA BENSEMRA
"How many more cases are happening right now in the occupied territories?"

Mass graves and indiscriminate executions spread to other places around Kiev. In Vorzel, some 50 kilometres from the capital, Russian troops threw a smoke grenade into a cellar and then shot a woman and a 14-year-old boy as they were leaving it, HRW reports. Meanwhile, in Motyzhyn, west of Kiev, witnesses told AP that Russian soldiers killed the town's mayor, her husband and son, and then dumped their bodies in a well in a forest.

Miembros del servicio ucraniano caminan cerca del cuerpo de un soldado ruso mientras contin煤a la invasi贸n rusa de Ucrania, en Bucha, Ucrania 3 de abril de 2022 REUTERS/GLEB GARANICH

In Bucha alone, Ukrainian authorities have recovered the bodies of 410 civilians. The town's mayor, Anatoly Fedoruk, told AFP that 280 bodies were transferred to mass graves because it was impossible to bury them in local cemeteries. Satellite images from Maxar show a large trench of almost 14 metres near St Andrew's Church and Pyervozvannoho All Saints.

Reactions to the massacres have been swift, both from local authorities and international leaders. Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky called the Russian soldiers "murderers, torturers, rapists and looters who call themselves the army and deserve only death after what they did".

El alcalde de la ciudad, Anatoly Fedoruk, dijo a la AFP que otros 280 cuerpos hab铆an sido enterrados en fosas comunes AP/RODRIGO ABD

Zelensky also again addressed the mothers of Russian servicemen. "I want all the mothers of all Russian soldiers to see the bodies of those killed in Bucha, in Irpin, in Hostomel. The mothers of Russian soldiers should see that." "Look at the bastards you have raised. Murderers, looters, butchers," he added. This is not the first time the Ukrainian leader has spoken directly to the soldiers' mothers. In March he also urged them to prevent their sons from being sent to war in Ukraine. 

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has stressed that the Bucha massacre shows that Russian hatred of Ukrainians "goes beyond anything Europe has seen since the Second World War". Kuleba again called for more sanctions against Moscow, as well as military aid to its partners. "Tanks, combat aircraft, heavy air defence systems. Provide them now," he wrote on his Twitter account.

veh铆culos blindados rusos destruidos, en medio de la invasi贸n rusa a Ucrania en Bucha, en la regi贸n de Kyiv, Ucrania el 2 de abril de 2022 REUTERS/ZOHRA BENSEMRA

However, despite the brutal events in Bucha, members of Zelensky's government do not rule out further massacres. "The war crimes in Brovary and Chernigov could be more heinous than those in Bucha. We have eyewitness accounts from friends, relatives and students. We need help to document them," revealed Tymofiy Mylovanov, an economist and advisor to the Kiev Executive. Mylovanov has listed some of the war crimes committed in these places, such as mass rapes or executions of civilians. 

Ucrania ha recuperado el control de "toda la regi贸n de Kiev" despu茅s de que las fuerzas invasoras rusas se hayan retirado de algunas ciudades clave cerca de la capital ucraniana, ha dicho hoy el viceministro de Defensa. AFP/ RONALDO SCHEMIDT

"How many more cases are happening right now in the occupied territories?," asks Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian presidential adviser. Podolyak has also addressed Western leaders via his Telegram channel. He asked politicians "who eat well and sleep peacefully at home" to look at the bleak pictures from Bucha. "The main thing, according to our European partners, is not to provoke the Russians," he wrote.

Los periodistas de Associated Press en Bucha, una peque帽a ciudad al noroeste de Kiev, vieron los cuerpos de al menos nueve personas vestidas de civil que parec铆an haber sido asesinadas a corta distancia AP/VADIM GHIRDA

Zelensky himself has even invited former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and former German Chancellor Angela Merkel to visit Bucha and see "what the policy of concessions to Russia has led to in 14 years".  The president urged them to "see with their own eyes the tortured Ukrainians".

Despite Ukraine accusing the Kremlin of "genocide", Moscow defends that the images were "commissioned" to blame Russia. "Who are the masters of provocation? Of course, the United States and NATO," said Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

Mapa que muestra Bucha, donde el ej茅rcito ruso est谩 acusado de cr铆menes de guerra tras el descubrimiento de fosas comunes AFP/AFP

Moscow has also called for a meeting of the UN Security Council while accusing the Ukrainian army of "provoking" and "disrupting" peace talks. In parallel, the pro-Russian propaganda machine has also defended the "innocence" of Russian troops, arguing that the crimes were committed by the Ukrainians themselves.

The UN, for its part, has called for the launch of an investigation for "effective accountability". "We are not yet in a position to comment directly on the causes and circumstances of the civilian deaths in Bucha, but what is known raises serious and disturbing questions about possible war crimes," the UN said.

La  mano de un cad谩ver enterrado junto a otros cuerpos se ve en una fosa com煤n en Bucha, en las afueras de Kiev, Ucrania, el domingo 3 de abril de 2022 AP/RODRIGO ABD
EU considers new sanctions: Russian gas supplies on the table

The West has expressed its rejection of the massacres committed by the Russian army, as well as its support for the Ukrainian people. In this regard, Germany has expressed its openness to discussing a Russian gas embargo on Europe. Berlin, Gazprom's main customer, has so far resisted suspending energy imports from Russia, citing the dependence of its economy and that of other European countries.

However, recent events in Bucha seem to have marked a turning point in Europe. "Putin and his supporters will feel the consequences," warned Chancellor Olaf Scholz. French leader Emmanuel Macron has also called for new and "very clear" sanctions in the energy sector." 

Un militar ucraniano camina junto a un cuerpo sin vida tendido en la calle mientras comprueba si hay trampas explosivas en el suburbio de Bucha, Ucrania, antes ocupado por Rusia, el s谩bado 2 de abril de 2022 AP/VADIM GHIRDA

"In the coming hours there may be a debate on the issue of hydrocarbon imports from Russia," Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio announced on Italian TV channel Rai 3. For his part, Spanish Foreign Minister Jos茅 Manuel Albares stressed that "war crimes must be promptly investigated and those responsible punished"

Despite the solidarity expressed by European representatives, there is still strong sympathy for the Kremlin within the continent. A sign of this is the recent election victory of Viktor Orb谩n, Hungary's president. The populist leader has provoked controversy within the EU over his stance on the war in Ukraine. Orb谩n has decided not to take a stand against Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom he has a close personal relationship.

Un hombre y un ni帽o en bicicleta se cruzan con el cuerpo de un civil tendido en una calle del suburbio de Bucha, Ucrania, antes ocupado por Rusia, el s谩bado 2 de abril de 2022 AP/VADIM GHIRDA

The Hungarian leader also acknowledged six enemies during his speech after his victory. "We have had to fight a lot of opponents," Orb谩n began, citing several of his political enemies, including the Hungarian left, "bureaucrats" in Brussels, the international media, "and the Ukrainian president" Zelensky.

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