By Ivan Lyubysh-Kirdey and Gleb Garanich
- Russian forces occupied town of Bucha for 33 days
- Mass graves were found after its recapture by Ukraine
- Ukraine accuses Russian troops of carrying out atrocities
- Russia denies the allegations
BUCHA, Ukraine, March 31 (Reuters) – President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday Ukraine would never forgive Russian troops responsible for alleged atrocities in Bucha as the town near Kyiv marked the anniversary of its recapture after 33 days of occupation.
Ukrainian forces took back control of the small towns of Bucha and Irpin to the northwest of Kyiv in late March last year as Russian invasion forces abandoned an attempt to seize the capital.
“When Bucha was de-occupied, we saw that the devil was not somewhere out there but on the ground. The heinous truth about what was happening in the temporarily occupied territories was revealed to the world,” Zelenskiy said.
International investigators are now collecting evidence in those towns and other places where Ukraine says Russian troops committed large-scale atrocities. Russia denies the allegations.
After Ukraine took back control of Bucha, harrowing images of dead bodies lying in the street were beamed across the world.
Russia’s occupation of the town resulted in more than 1,400 deaths, including 37 children, Kyiv said. More than 175 people were found in mass graves and torture chambers and 9,000 Russian war crimes have been identified, it said.
Zelenskiy described the town as a “symbol of the atrocities” of Russian occupying forces.
“We will never forget the victims of this war, and we will certainly bring all Russian murderers to justice,” Zelenskiy wrote on social media. “We will never forgive. We will punish every perpetrator.”
Bucha, a leafy suburb that is now a regular port of call for visiting foreign leaders, was expected to hold commemorative events to mark the anniversary later on Friday.
The leaders of Croatia, Slovakia and Slovenia travelled to Ukraine on Friday, the Croatian government said.
Fighting is still raging in the east and south of Ukraine, where Russian forces hold swathes of territory captured after they invaded on Feb. 24, 2022.
For places like Bucha hundreds of miles from the fighting, the war is still felt with regular air raid sirens telling residents to take cover from air strikes that have caused sweeping power outages.
Residents in Bucha told Reuters this week of the deep psychological wounds left by the occupation and said it would take generations to get over it.
Some buildings remain battered in the town and a scrapyard is full of cars and military vehicles destroyed during last year’s fighting.
“We should understand that it’s easy to rebuild walls, but it’s much harder to rebuild a wounded soul,” said Andriy Holovin, a priest at a Ukrainian Orthodox parish.