At a mass grave in Bucha, Ukraine, the sense of loss cannot be measured

“Brother, we’ve been looking for you for so long,” he says, and bursts into tears in the middle. His brother Dmitry has been missing for about a week and neighbors have told Vladimir that he may be buried here.

“We thought you were alive,” screams Vladimir.

In the grave, the bodies are stacked one on top of the other, mostly in black sacks, but some with limbs sticking out. Only a few are buried. A CNN team saw at least a dozen bodies in the mass grave, but the earth is showing signs of recent movement, suggesting many more may lie beneath.

Kyiv regional police and residents say they believe at least 150 people were buried in the mass grave, but Bucha’s mayor says the death toll could be as high as 300. CNN has not been able to independently verify their claims.

Vladimir collects himself, comforted by his wife Anna and a neighbor, Liubov, and leaves. He says he thinks his brother is buried there, but the sad reality is he can’t know for sure – and maybe not for a long time.

Residents say the grave in the grounds behind St. Andrew and Pyervosvannoho Church on All Saints’ Day was dug early in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, such was the death toll in this leafy Kyiv suburb.
Satellite imagery from Maxar dating back to March 10 shows the trench is already being dug.

As Russian forces withdraw from the Kyiv area, the horrors of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine are coming to light. The death and destruction brought about by Russia’s war machine can be seen in Bucha, where bodies were seen on suburban streets as early as Sunday. Some had their hands tied behind their backs.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has blamed Russia for the killings in the district and accused Moscow of trying to put an end to its “whole nation”.

“This is about the destruction and extermination of all these nationalities,” he said in an interview on CBS News’ Face the Nation on Sunday.
For its part, Russia has denied any involvement, claiming it is not targeting civilians and saying images of bodies on the streets of Bucha were fake.
Within the district, the streets are littered with wrecked Russian armored vehicles – including tanks – being ambushed by Ukrainian drones or units armed with NATO-supplied man-portable rocket launchers such as Javelins and Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapon Systems, or NLAWs.

In some cases, entire columns of Russian armored vehicles were trapped on narrow residential streets before being destroyed.

A column of Russian armored vehicles littered a street in Bucha.

“They thought they could just drive down the street and walk through. That they were greeted as if it were okay to come here,” Valery Spichek, an officer with the National Police of Ukraine, tells us. “Maybe they think it’s normal to drive around looting, destroying buildings and taunting people.”

“But our people didn’t allow it,” he adds.

The vehicles are now rusting where they were stopped, a testament to the heavy casualties Moscow suffered before it was forced out of the Kyiv area.

Many high-rise buildings were destroyed in the city of Borjanka, north-west of Kyiv.

The destruction extends to most of the buildings and other infrastructure in the area, with very few homes remaining intact, most of which are uninhabitable following the Russian offensive on the capital.

The scene in Bucha is similar to what CNN has seen in other districts around Kyiv, such as Irvin, Myla, Hostomel and as far north as Bordyanka.

In the latter, entire multistory buildings were destroyed by artillery shells as Ukrainians and Russians fought for control of the area. Authorities say they fear bodies lie beneath the rubble and that the true death toll is still impossible to measure.

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