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