What we know about “war crimes” in Boutcha

Ukraine and Western countries accuse Russian troops of “massacre” and “war crimes” after the discovery of dozens of corpses in the streets of Boutcha, a small town northwest of Kyiv recently taken over by Ukrainian troops.

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Here’s what we know about the events that drew horrified condemnation from around the world and prompted Kyiv’s allies to take new sanctions against Russia.


Boutcha, a town of about 37,000 inhabitants 30 km from Kyiv, has been, like other localities surrounding the capital, the scene of some of the most violent fighting since the start of the war on February 24.

The Russian army entered Boutcha on February 27, but the battle continued there for several days, with the Russian troops suffering heavy losses.

Several civilian evacuation operations were carried out until March 12: the authorities then said they had no control or access to the city for about a week.


The fighting around Boutcha never completely ceased and at the end of March, Russian troops withdrew from the town. Mayor Anatoli Fedorouk announced on April 1 that “March 31 will go down in the history of our locality as the day of its liberation”.

AFP journalists can go there on April 2: they see gutted buildings, many car wrecks and streets strewn with debris.

The inhabitants who remained on the spot were deprived of water and electricity by freezing temperatures.

Walking along Yablonska Street, one of the longest in Boutcha, AFP discovered, scattered over several hundred meters, the corpses of twenty men dressed in civilian clothes.

One is lying on his bike, others have shopping bags next to them. Another, lying on his side, has his hands tied behind his back. At least two of these corpses have large head wounds.



The skin on the faces looked waxy, suggesting that the corpses had been there for at least several days. To AFP, Anatoli Fedorouk affirms that “all these people were shot”.

Several mass graves were also dug by the local authorities, because the three cemeteries of the city, within range of Russian fire, were inaccessible.

According to Mr. Fedorouk, nearly 300 people in total were buried in these graves. On April 3, AFP saw one behind a church in which 57 bodies lay.


In the days following the discovery of the first bodies, images of other corpses in Boutcha were published; in building courtyards, gardens or the basement of a sanatorium, some with their hands tied behind their backs.

The first testimonies are pouring in. “Right in front of my eyes, they shot a man who was going to get food from the supermarket”, described to AFP Olena, who lived for a month in a cellar without electricity with her two children.

She says three neighbors, including an army veteran, disappeared one day while taking out their trash. They were found in a courtyard, with traces of bullets.

According to her, the massacres began two weeks after the beginning of the occupation, with the arrival of men different from the assault troops who had conquered the city. Agents of the FSB – the Russian security services – told him Russian soldiers.

These discoveries are not limited to Boutcha. In Motijine, 50 kilometers west of Kyiv, AFP saw four half-buried bodies in a pit dug in the forest. Among them, the mayoress of this village, her husband and her son who had disappeared.

In Boutcha, residents met by AFP continued on Wednesday to try to find out what had happened to their missing relatives.

Moscow immediately denied that its troops had committed a massacre, the Russian army ensuring, a few hours after the publication of the photos of the bodies of the street Yablonska, to have discovered “falsifications” proving a staging.

In support of this “staging”: a corpse that would move its hand on a widely shared video, or another seen getting up in the rear view mirror of a car.

However, an AFP team, on site on April 3, photographed these two motionless bodies in exactly the same place and in the same position as on the video. And an analysis by AFP, with better quality video than that used by the Russian army, shows that the bodies are not moving.

Wednesday, Vladimir Putin spoke of a “gross and cynical provocation” from Kyiv. The spokesperson for Russian diplomacy, Maria Zakharova, has changed her angle of attack. According to her, Kyiv either executed civilians in Boutcha or transported bodies for staging purposes.

“Not a single civilian was even injured” during the Russian occupation of the city, she adds, accusing the “(Western) media, above all American (…) of complicity in this punitive action of ‘assassination of civilians’.

Corn satellite images from the American company Maxar Technologiescoupled with the analysis of photos taken by AFP, show that several bodies had been there for at least three weeks.


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