Three war crimes in Bucha which reflect the senseless murder of Ukrainians by Russian troops
Warning: This article contains distressing descriptions of people being shot dead and tortured. The video above contains footage and images of dead bodies and scenes showing the aftermath of torture.
In a special report for News at Ten, ITV News has investigated three separate atrocities in Bucha which give a sense of the widespread, indiscriminate murder being carried out by the Russian army. The following report is written by ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers and News Editor Jonathan Wald in Ukraine.
The town of Bucha captured the world’s attention with its images of horror.
They gave a glimpse into the terrible consequences of a conflict prosecuted without limits.
Today the drive into Bucha looks very different to those first hours after it was liberated.
A gruesome video showing the bodies of civilians left decomposing where they fell, was the first indication of the war crimes perpetrated here.
Now, new atrocities are being uncovered every day across areas occupied by the Russians.
We have decided to investigate three separate war crimes, which are representative of the senseless killing meted out in so many towns and cities by Putin’s army.
The first is the story of one man’s death, Dmitro Stefianko, on 26 March.
He had left the home of his mother to look for supplies with another man just after 10am.
After crossing railway tracks nearby, the pair encountered half a dozen Russian troops at a crossroads.
We have managed to piece together what happened next from the testimonies of neighbours and witnesses.
It appears the two men were challenged by the soldiers and ran for their lives. One of the soldiers was armed with an RPK machine gun and peppered his bullets down the street, injuring Dmitro.
A shell casing we found at the scene confirms the weapon used, bullet holes in the fence show where the execution happened.
The other man who was with Dmitro escaped, but Dmitro was dragged back by the soldiers, after he was shot in the buttock.
According to witness Oleg Shylo, who was being held by the troops nearby, Dmitro was then shot dead at the side of the road.
Oleg confirmed Dmitro was the man who was executed near him after seeing his photo.
Dmitro’s body eventually ended up in a mass grave next to St. Andrew’s Church in Bucha, with dozens of other civilians. Many had been shot.
It will take months to formally identify them all and contact their families. But while the individual stories of summary executions are upsetting, they aren’t the whole story.
There are several locations in Bucha where there is evidence that Russian soldiers were engaged in more orchestrated murder, involving multiple victims at the same place.
We have investigated two of these massacres although more are being discovered every day.
One was discovered on 1 April in the cellar of a Soviet-era children’s camp on the edge of a large park in Bucha. The bodies of five men were found in the basement.
All had been shot dead with their hands behind their backs, apparently while kneeling on the floor.
After the forensic teams had finished their work, we were allowed into the cellar and found a shell casing and bullet showing the men were probably shot with armour piercing 5.45 rounds from an AK47.
The angle of the bullet holes in the wall suggests the men were kneeling on the floor when they were executed, by a gunman or gunmen standing above them.
We have learned details about the men and why they may have been targeted.
Their identities and names reveal they were a group of everyday tradesmen, a plumber and door installer among their number.
The sister of one of the men, Dmytro Shulmeister, spoke for the first time to ITV News about her grief on learning of her brother’s death, which was confirmed when she viewed a grim video of the scene online and recognised his face.
She says Dmytro and four others refused to leave, instead deciding to help organise the evacuation of other civilians.
Their activities soon attracted the attention of occupying Russian forces who eventually captured them, tortured them and killed them.
Forensic experts are investigating the date of the shooting and haven’t yet made their results public.
Tatiana Shulmeister told us through her tears: “They were kept in that basement, got tortured and brutally abused, and after all that they got executed.
"My brother, he didn’t even close his eyes. I can still see his eyes in front of me. He was such a brave man, he was not afraid and did not understand what for… Even when being viciously executed he did not close his eyes. This is horrendous."
She has since set up a fundraising page to help raise money for her brother's grieving family.
Ukraine's minister of internal affairs has warned 'Bucha is not the exception' for civilian deaths, Dan Rivers reports
Two miles to the south of the children’s camp is the site of another mass killing. This time at least eleven were murdered and the final number may be higher.
The bodies of men bearing signs of torture were found to the side of an agriculture construction agency next to a builders yard, in a residential area.
One man had his fingernails removed and his hands were bound behind his back. Another was beaten across the back and his feet were tied together with electrical cable.
All appeared to have been shot. We have talked to one witness who not only saw what happened, but also survived it.
The man, who is too afraid to be named for fear of reprisals from Russian sympathisers in his own community, described how local residents were rounded up by Russian troops, the men of fighting age segregated from the others.
He managed to prove he had fought in Afghanistan as a Soviet soldier and one of the troops took pity on him because his father had served there. He was spared.
This was the fine line between life and death. He told us how he was moved away from the men designated for execution.
The condemned men were led away with their shirts pulled over their heads.
He saw them taken around the side of the building and then heard gunshots. We have managed to identify one of the eight men shot outside the building.
He is Anatoly Prykhidko who was born in 1983 and may have been targeted because he was with Ukraine’s territorial defence.
A witness who saw his body told us his cheek had been cut out, there were multiple stab wounds on his torso and he’d been shot through the chest.
The three atrocities we have investigated suggest a degree of premeditation and coordination by the Russian army which precludes this all being the work of a few rogue units.
I asked Ukraine’s Prosecutor General, Iryna Venediktova, about how high up the culpability for these war crimes goes.
She was blunt in her response: “Of course it was ordered to kill civilians because we see gunshots that’s why it was ordered and what you see here in Bucha and other small cities, small villages occupied in Kyiv region. Actually you see it’s not only war crimes, it’s crimes against humanity.”
“President Putin is a main war criminal of the 21st century. Of course he is responsible of all of these, what is going on now in Ukraine but you remember that it was in Chechnya and what is after Chechnya? It was in Georgia, it was in Syria and he is still not responsible for all of these crimes against humanity. That’s why we should do everything to punish people who are responsible for this."
What I have seen in Ukraine these last few weeks will stay with me forever.
The brutality of the killings in places like Bucha is reminiscent of war crimes in the Balkans in the 1990s, or Europe in the 1940s.
While the details and images of these killings are difficult to bear, the world must not avert its gaze. We must see this in all its horror, learn from it and hold those responsible to account.
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