More than any other place, Bucha symbolizes the Russian atrocities in Ukraine. Research by the “New York Times” has now shown which Russian unit is primarily responsible for dozens of deaths.
“This is the street of death,” says a Ukrainian man as he walks down a street in the Kiev suburb of Bucha. Bodies lie around him, he counts them one by one. Bucha has burned itself into people’s minds as the epitome of Russian war crimes like no other place. Bodies of dozens of civilians were found on a street – Jablunska Street – in March, after the city was occupied by Russian troops for about a month. According to Ukrainian sources, 458 bodies had been discovered in the town by August 2022.
According to research by the New York Times (NYT), the soldiers of the 234th Airborne Regiment from Peskov in western Russia are said to be primarily responsible for the murders on Jablunska Street. The newspaper was able to identify 24 of them. The newspaper’s video report is based on recordings from surveillance cameras and cell phone videos, radio messages and conversations with residents of Bucha. The journalists evaluated telephone data. The soldiers of the 234th regiment are said to have “routinely” used the phones of their dead victims “to call Russia”.
“Soldiers have interrogated and executed unarmed men of military age, and they have killed people who inadvertently got in their way – whether they were children fleeing with their families, local residents looking for food, or people just trying to to ride their bikes home,” writes the “NYT”.
According to the NYT, most civilians were shot in the head. The newspaper was also able to trace the identity of three dozen of the civilians killed. They were shot “apparently as part of a systematic cleansing operation to secure the way to the capital”.
On February 27, the Russian attackers were initially pushed back by the Ukrainian military when they wanted to take the capital Kyiv via Bucha. But on March 3, the Russians came back to Bucha – less conspicuously than the first time. Her focus: Jablunska Street, which runs through the center of the suburb.
They set up their headquarters in an old factory. “As soon as they reached Jablunksa Street, they shot at anything that moved, including civilians,” the NYT reporter said. Soldiers searched for adult males, questioned them, and killed them. For fear that these men could become dangerous to them, the newspaper said.
“You should kneel in a row facing the ground,” said one resident who saw Ukrainian security forces shot dead. Video footage and pictures showed the men’s bodies lying on the ground – for weeks. Another local resident saw people on their bicycles being shot, some of them fleeing Bucha. On March 8, they are said to have killed at least eight people within three hours, the “NYT” was able to reconstruct based on recordings and eyewitness reports.
“He said, ‘Let’s go and kill these civilians,'” one soldier told another of the commander’s order. Flakon, Astra and Uran are names of commanders that the newspaper was able to assign to the heads of the 234th Regiment based on radio messages. Neither the Russian Ministry of Defense nor the Russian Embassy in Washington responded to the newspaper’s inquiries. The Russian government has always denied any involvement of Russian soldiers in torture and killings.