NBC News could not independently confirm Abramova’s account, but there are similar stories from survivors and eyewitnesses in Bucha who told NBC News of indiscriminate killings, intimidation and looting by Russian soldiers.
“I started screaming, ‘Kill me too,'” Abramova said as she cupped her hands over her chest.
Due to sniper fire and Russian troops patrolling the streets, she was unable to collect Oleg’s body for a month, she said, but it has now been taken away by Ukrainian authorities. She hopes to get it back for a proper burial.
Oleg’s blood was still staining the sidewalk in front of his house when his wife recounted his death.
Abramova showed photos of her husband on her phone. In one of them, Abramov wears an orange construction hat and yellow vest and is holding a cat.
“He was very fond of cats,” Abramova said, swiping through the photos.
Her husband was a welder and they lived a good life, Ambramova said. He never served in the military or owned a gun.
She said she believed Russian troops killed her husband to scare others in Bucha into submission.
On April 2, Ukrainian forces regained control of the city, but for five weeks Russian soldiers occupied Bucha and destroyed much of it. As NBC News drove through the city, they saw damaged or destroyed homes, mangled cars, and fresh graves in people’s backyards.
Images that emerged from the city streets and houses after the Russian withdrawal shook the world. Some photographs show corpses in civilian clothes lying on blood-smeared sidewalks, some with their hands tied behind their backs.
Ukrainian officials estimate that hundreds of civilians were killed in Bucha and they accuse Moscow of committing war crimes there. Russia denies attacking the city’s civilians and says Ukraine staged the alleged atrocities to discredit its army.
Broken windows characterize Valentyna’s three-story building with orange walls.
While controlling the city, Russian soldiers went from apartment to apartment mainly looking for young men, she said.
“They broke down doors with axes and sledgehammers,” said Valentyna, 67, who spoke on condition that her last name not be used.
Valentyna says she and her friend buried four people here — two were neighbors she had known for 30 years. She didn’t know who the other two were, but buried them anyway. All four were killed by Russian troops, she said — she doesn’t know why. NBC News could not confirm how the four people died.
She pointed to handwritten signs hanging on the front doors that said innocent civilians lived inside.
“Peaceful people have been through hell here,” she said. “I have no more tears. My soul hurts.”
A few yards away was a fresh grave with a green cross and a pink scarf tied around it.
“Please don’t let that happen again,” Valentyna said, her voice shaking.
Amid the pain, shock and despair in Bucha, one question keeps popping up – why the brutality of a people so close to Ukraine?
“I always thought they were our brothers,” Abramova said. “They said they would not target civilians. I don’t know what to say — I am half Russian myself.”
She added, “They said, ‘We are Russians, we came to free you.'”
Richard Engel and Marc Smith reported from Bucha, and Yuliya Talmazan from London.