Ukrainian Bucha: Mass graves and relatives’ fear of missing

09:39 pm

Saturday 16 April 2022

(Deutsche Welle)

After the withdrawal of Russian forces, mines are being cleared and bodies have been found on several outskirts of Kiev. Now journalists can visit these places. Alexander Swiszky reports from the Ukrainian cities of Hostomil and Bucha.

It’s a scary sight. The streets of Hostomil, a once cozy suburb northwest of Kiev, have been deserted since the withdrawal of Russian forces.

The contrasts could not have been more pronounced: the first flowers blooming in the trees and the song of the spring birds are heard in the air, but there are also the crackles of broken iron poles and the barking of lonely dogs wandering the streets without their owners . Fallen power lines and parts of the walls were bombed. The noise of pieces of glass being constantly pressed underfoot.

Houses, garages and cars were burned everywhere. Many of the buildings are five-story apartment blocks – most now roofless. The windows were also broken by pressure waves and gunfire. On one of the balconies that survived the bombing, clothes fly in the wind as their owners abandoned them and hurried away from Russian aggression. The whole time our group of reporters was at Hostomel, we saw only one middle-aged man and woman watching the media buses with hopeful eyes.

Antonov: Crash of the “dream” plane

Hostomil Airport, about 20 kilometers from Kiev, was the hub of Antonov Airlines, known for its cargo planes, among which the world’s largest “An-225”, “An-225”, “Mriya”, which will means “dream”. The entrance to the airport was severely damaged by the bombing. A plaque with the image of stylist Oleh Antonov, after whom the company that produces commercial goods and aircraft is named, was not damaged. There are many burnt military equipment of Russian forces in the airport yard. And you can see the craters caused by the bomb blast. After days of constant bombardment, the gates, walls and ceilings of the aircraft hangars were pierced like a sieve.

The only An-225 Mriya, of which only the nose and wings were left with the remains of six engines. And in the middle of the big plane, there are gaps that show the burnt internal parts of the plane. We journalists are allowed to film this scary scene, but without getting too close to the rubble, because the airport is still full of heavy automatic bullets and unexploded ordnance.

“Only when the evacuation is completed will experts be able to examine the plane and clarify the cause of the fire,” said Ukrainian Interior Minister Denis Monastirsky, who accompanied the reporters.

The hotel is deserted

According to him, the Russian invaders occupied the airport on the first day of their attack in Kiev, ie on February 24. Dozens of Russian attack helicopters flew over Kiev’s water reservoir at a very low altitude – invisible to radar. Then about 500 of the first Russian paratroopers landed on Hostomil. “Ukrainian defenders managed to shoot down six Russian enemy helicopters in a very brutal battle. Hundreds of paratroopers were killed. The Ukrainian army then used rocket launchers to destroy the elite unit and all its equipment led by Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadyrov,” he said. Minister of Interior.

According to statements by Ukrainian Interior Minister Monastirsky, the Russians later sent large reinforcements that enabled them to occupy the airport and the city. According to the minister, the town of Hostomil served as a landing site for Russian military transport aircraft for forces aiming to capture and occupy Kiev. But the Ukrainians blew up the runway and after the fiercest battles finally forced the invaders to retreat. “But the danger for Kiev has not been eliminated. We are preparing for possible new attacks,” Monastirsky said.

Bocha: The bodies now need to be identified

The town of Hostómel leads directly to the town of Bucha, and only the town park defines the administrative boundary between them. But the contrast is startling. One week after Buça was liberated from Russian occupation, life is felt there again. People and civilian cars can be seen on the street, and there are also more houses guarded than at Hostomel. However, damaged buildings, destroyed supermarkets as well as roadblocks still recall the fighting.

But the impression of peace is misleading. Images of lifeless bodies on the streets of Buca are still fresh in the minds of people in the city and around the world. As the municipality cleans the streets, graves are uncovered and evidence of civilian deaths continues to emerge.

Buses with journalists stop at an Orthodox church near which bodies are being exhumed from a deep pit. People wear white protective suits and the dead lie in black plastic bags. The priest says that many residents of Buca who have lost contact with their families are now anxiously looking at the mass graves: “They hope they will not find their loved ones among the dead. They hope they have been caught or hospitalized, that is. have survived. ” The bags of the bodies were still open and the faces of the dead could be seen, most of them had now turned black.

Andrei Nepetov of the National Police of the Kiev region told reporters that so far 40 people have been found in the cemetery near the church. According to Nebitov’s statement, an employee of the public enterprise gathered him on the city streets with the permission of the Russian occupying forces. “We are now handing over the bodies to the forensic office. Many of them have had gunshot wounds to the head or body. They can be said to have been killed directly by machine guns or snipers,” Nebitov said.

According to the police chief, all the dead were civilians, male and female of different ages, with the exception of military personnel. 360 bodies were found from Bucha, Hostomel and Irpin, but the search has not yet been completed, as “many bodies were buried in gardens because they could not be brought to the cemetery during the bombing,” according to Nebitov.

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