What we know about Butscha: At least 400 dead

The government in Kiev and Western countries have accused Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Above all, the photos from the ruined city of Buca shocked the world opinion. The AFP news agency documents what is known so far about the alleged actions of the Russian army there.


Before the war, Bucha was a family suburb of Kiev with about 37,000 inhabitants. The first Russian soldiers arrived in the city on February 27 and took control of the city on March 5, according to the human rights organization Human Rights Watch. At that time, about 4000 inhabitants were still there. On March 31, the Russian army withdrew from Bucha.


AFP reporters discovered 20 plainclothes bodies scattered several hundred meters on Jablunska Street on April 2nd. They looked like they had been there for at least a few days. One man had fallen off the bicycle and the others had their hands tied behind their backs. At least two appear to have had head injuries.

Mykhaylo Palinchak / SOPA images via ZUMA Press Wire

A car destroyed on a village road near Buçë.


According to Bucha police chief Vitaly Lobass, about 400 bodies were discovered after the bodies were retrieved, including two mass graves. Most were shot, about a quarter could not be identified. More than 1,000 dead civilians were found across the region, according to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna.


“These are war crimes and they will be recognized by the world as genocide,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said during a visit to Bucha on April 4. The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, traveled there on April 13 and called all of Ukraine a “crime scene.” A team of investigators from Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine will gather evidence in the country and will be supported by the EU judicial co-operation agency Eurojust, Khan announced.

Human Rights Watch conducted its own investigation and said it found evidence of war crimes, including torture, brief executions and enforced disappearances. Investigators from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights documented the deaths of 50 civilians in Bucha on April 9, including summarized executions.

Emilio Morenatti / AP / dpa

Ukraine, Bucha: A priest blesses the three dead who died during the Russian occupation and were exhumed from makeshift graves in Bucha.


Hours after the first images of the bodies were published on Jablunska Street, the Russian military claimed the scene was staged as two of the dead were moving on video. An analysis of the video by AFP and the film footage of the agency dismissed this.

Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Kiev of “clumsy and cynical provocations,” while the Foreign Ministry accused Ukraine of killing civilians themselves or dumping bodies there.

Satellite images from the American company Maxar Technologies compared to AFP images show that some of the bodies were in the open air for at least three weeks. Der Spiegel quoted radio messages from Russian soldiers as being intercepted by the Federal Intelligence Service (BND), which spoke of atrocities. In one conversation, one soldier told another that he and his colleagues had killed a man on a bicycle.

Prosecution of PRACTICES

Kiev blames the 64th Russian Motorized Infantry Brigade for the crimes. The bodies were stationed in Bucha. The Ukrainian prosecutor’s office said Thursday that they are investigating ten members of the war crimes brigade. Putin signed a decree on April 18 praising the brigade for “its heroism and bravery.”

At the beginning of the occupation, mostly young Russian soldiers were in the city, a witness told AFP. Later, “brutal” seniors climbed up. “The massacres started during this time,” the woman said.

According to messages intercepted by the BND, Russian mercenaries from the infamous Wagner group could also have been involved.

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