Babi Yar 'bombing' Bucha Russia Russo-Ukrainian war Stratcomm Strategic Communication Strategic Communications

Tentative Conclusions on Bucha: A Small My Lai?

On 16 March 1968, U.S. Army soldiers massacred between 347 to 504 unarmed South Vietnamese civilians in Sơn Tịnh District, South Vietnam, on 16 March 1968 during the Vietnam War. There were other ‘lesser’ massacres in Vietnam, and the North Vietnamese also committed atrocities both during and certainly after the war. But this article is about the U.S. war in Vietnam, but about a massacre of supposedly an approximately equal number of Ukrainian civilians in Bucha, Ukraine by Russian soldiers in the Russo-Ukrainian war.

The Western-Ukrainian narrative is that Russians slaughtered hundreds of Ukrainian civilians in Bucha, the bodies found on the streets, in basements, and in mass graves once Ukrainian forces pushed the Russians out of Bucha. Within hours of Ukrainian officials claims of a major massacre, US officials were calling for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be brought up on war crimes charges. No investigation, no facts had yet been presented. The reality is beginning to appear starkly different the Ukrainian and Western claims, though it certainly does not whitewash all the Russian troops who were in Bucha. We still do not know the entire when, where, who and how of all the killings in Bucha, but it appears that a strong majority of some 400 dead were the usual, tragic casualties of war. I present some tentative conclusions from my reading of Western, Ukrainian, Russian and UN sources.

The Western/Kiev narrative begins to fall apart from the start. First, the Russians were not simply forced out of Bucha; part of the departure was an organized pre-planned withdrawal. Russian forces withdrew voluntarily after the Russian delegation to peace talks in Istanbul announced on March 29th that Russian troops would withdraw from the area around Kiev as a way of facilitating a better negotiating atmosphere (https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/pentagon-dubious-russian-withdrawal-north-kyiv-expects-troops/story?id=83740519). Although this may have been more a case of withdrawing as part of a redeployment to the south as part of the second phase of the war focused on expelling all Ukrainian forces out of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts (and perhaps all of ‘Novorossiya’ and the Azov and Black Sea coasts from Donbass to Odessa), there is no evidence the Russians were forced out of Bucha. However, significant losses drove some to take out their anger on civilians in Bucha much as occurred in My Lai over half a century ago.

RUSSIAN AND UKRAINIAN TROOPS IN BUCHA IN MARCH 2022

Such basic information as which forces controlled which parts of Bucha on which dates is unavailable, except for the few days before and after the 30-31 March Russian withdrawal, after which Ukrainian forces took over the city entirely. I have tried to reconstruct the shifting presence of Russian and Ukrainian troops in Bucha from early March to early April (see Appendix).

Russians first held parts of Bucha on March 8th. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted no major attacks on northwestern Kyiv in March 9-14 (www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-14). On March 10th Russian forces only controlled part of Bucha, meaning Ukrainian forces held the other areas of Bucha: Russian forces occupy a ring of positions north and west of Kyiv running through Poliske, Kukhari, Borodyanka, Andriyivka, Motyzhyn, Horenychi, Bucha” and “made slight advances” in Bucha on theat day (www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-10). On March 11th Ukraine’s Defense Ministry reported that Russian forces “attempted to break through Ukrainian defenses in Andriivka, Zhovtneve, Kopyliv, Motyzhyn, Buzova, Horenychi, and Bucha” (the ring of suburbs north and northwest on Kyiv) and later stated “at 6:00 am local time on March 11 that Russian forces failed to secure any territory” (www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-11). For the next few days Russian forces made little to no gains. Thus, Russian forces control if not presence in terms of territorial expanse in Bucha before March 12th. Recall that the New York Times reporting on the Bucha massacre claims the dead on Yablonskaya Street and perhaps elsewhere had been lying there since March 9-11. There is no report that Russian forces held that part of Bucha specifically until the appearance of the massacre claims. Thus, Russian forces did not control all of Bucha on the key dates of March 9-11, when the New York Times claims that the eight bodies in the infamous satellite photo it published were first photographed lying on the streets. More curiously, after supposedly three weeks lying in the outdoors with above freezing temperatures, these bodies in the NYT satellite photographs rather than being bloated and putrid, appeared as only recently killed, with no bloating or significant decay.

The Ukrainian General Staff reported that on March 13th-14th Russian forces launched several unsuccessful assaults and “limited attacks” against Irpin and Bucha (www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-14). There still had been no reports in this period that civilians were being shot by Russian troops or that corpses littered Yablonskaya Street. In other words, the corpses were not lying on Yablonskaya in this period, or they were corpses of people killed by shelling or by Ukrainian forces and/or Ukrainian territorial defense groups in the city during March or after having entered it on March 31-April 1. Perhaps some were even killed by regular criminals.

On March 15th Ukrainian sources alleged that Russian forces carried out a “pogrom” at the Bucha city council building and detained several city officials (https://vesti.ua/strana/vzyatyh-v-plen-sotrudnikov-gorsoveta-buchi-osvobodili). On the 16th, the same reported that at approximately 13:00 Russian forces released the Bucha officials (https://vesti.ua/strana/hronologiya-vojny-v-ukraine-21-j-den-sreda-obnovlyaetsya). There were still no reports that civilians were being shot by Russian troops or that corpses had been lying on Yablonskaya Street for nearly a week.

On March 21st-22nd, local Ukrainian sources reported Russian forces “entrenched” around Bucha on March 22 (www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/Russian%20Operations%20Assessments%20March%2022.pdf, p. 4). The Kyiv Oblast military administration stated that Russian forces still controlled Bucha and Hostomel, that Ukrainian forces could conduct only local counterattacks, and that Ukrainian troops were preparing for a larger offensive operation—all of which would suggest that Ukrainian troops have likely not yet encircled Russian troops in these areas (www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-23 and http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/Russian%20Operations%20Assessments%20March%2023.pdf). Thus, Russian forces had full or nearly full control of Bucha beginning on March 22nd. They withdrew on March 31st. Thus, Russian forces had full or near full control for ten days at most, from March 22nd to April 1st.

Local Ukrainian officials claimed on March 23 that Ukrainian forces had encircled Russian troops in Irpin, Bucha, and Hostomel. The mayor of Kyiv claimed that Ukrainian troops had almost pushed Russian forces out of Irpin (www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-23 and www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/Russian%20Operations%20Assessments%20March%2023.pdf). On March 24th Kyiv authorities reported Russian forces in Bucha and Nemishevska were constructing new trench lines for the last 24 hours in preparation likely for Ukrainian counterattacks (www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-24). Thus, in this period Ukrainian forces were firing on Bucha, which obviously could have resulted in civilian casualties. On March 26th a phone number was provided on the Bucha city council (Rada) Facebook page for residents to report “humanitarian disasters”, “shootings,” rocket attacks, and the like (www.facebook.com/bucharada.gov.ua/posts/1836972983175764).

On March 27th Russian forces were shelling Bucha, meaning Ukrainian forces must have been inside the city’s boundaries somewhere. Kyiv Oblast civil authorities and the Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian shelling focused on Bucha, Irpin, Hostomel, Borodyanka, and Makariv, but Russian forces did not apparently conduct ground operations for the last 24 hours (www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-27). On March 28th Ukrainian forces began counterattacks in the Irpin area as a staging ground for counterattacks on Bucha and other towns. Kyiv Obalst military authorities confirmed the recapture of Irpin, which was removed from their list of Russian-occupied Kiev suburbs. The Ukrainian General Staff stated that Ukrainian counterattacks were intended to deter Russian offensive action (https://understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-28). According to Ukrainian sources, Russian forces remained dug in the Bucha and Nemishyev areas as of March 29th (www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-29).

On March 30-31 Ukrainian sources reported that fighting continued throughout Bucha, Makariv, and Hostomel (www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-31). Then the Russian forces withdrew from Bucha on March 31-April 1, and Ukrainian forces control Bucha by April 1st. The world did not hear a word about Russian atrocities and corpses lying on Bucha’s streets until after Ukrainian ‘clean up’ squads enter the city to clean out traitors and quislings on April 2nd. It was reported on 2 April 2022 that Ukrainian police had entered Bucha to flush out possible “saboteurs or accomplices” of the Russian troops (https://vesti.ua/kiev/politsejskij-spetsnaz-nachal-zachistku-goroda-bucha). To reiterate, Russian forces had full or nearly full control of Bucha for 9-10 days, from March 22nd to April 1st.

Thus, Ukrainian forces were still in Bucha in some strength throughout mid-March and only episodically or in small teams thereafter, until the March 31 Russian withdrawal. During the periods 21-22, 25-26, 28-29, the Ukrainian military presence was very limited if existent at all inside the city, but the dead on Yablonskaya were reported to have been there since 9-11 March and the mass grave was dug on March 10th (see below). But information on precisely where in Bucha various Russian and Ukrainian forces were present and active was limited until Ukrainian forces entered the city on April 1st and remains incomplete today.  

Bodies in the Streets

The New York Times published satellite surveillance firm Maxar photographs purporting to show that some 8-20 bodies of Ukrainian civilians shot by Russian troops were lying on Bucha’s Yablonskaya Street from March 9-11 to the March 30th completion of the Russian withdrawal. Somehow, not one resident of Bucha reported to any authority that Russians had killed civilians or photographed the bodies and sent them to an authority through the entire period from 9-11 March to the 30 March completion of the Russian withdrawal during which supposedly some 20 bodies were said by the New York Times and Maxar to have been lying on the street. On 31 March 2022, Bucha’s mayor made a video to celebrate the liberation of the city. He called it a “happy day” and made no mention of civilians having been massacred by Russian troops or bodies lying in the streets (https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1510789934827053056.html and https://web.archive.org/web/20220404062459im_/https://video.twimg.com/ext_tw_video/1510789777888804865/pu/vid/640×362/GuxBWwP7U-5tDrfa.mp4?tag=12). At the same time, a member of the Bucha city council, Katerina Ukraintseva, ignored the bodies on the streets in her first comments immediately after the Russian withdrawal but three days suddenly mentioned them in accordance with the new pro-NATO narrative. On April 3rd she asserted they had been lying on Yablonskaya since the “beginning of March” (https://t.me/UkraineHumanRightsAbuses/1337 ). Had she suddenly got the memo or did she just forget about the rotting corpses of some 20 fellow Buchanians shot by the hated Russian forces for three weeks? In an interview given to the media outlet Meduza (classified as a foreign agent in Russia) at the same time, a female resident of Bucha and member of its territorial defense unit (hastily formed volunteer units formed on the war’s eve and responsible for vigilante justice and human rights violations since the war began**), said that “the people lying on Yablonskaya died because of chaotic shooting.” Curiously, she did not report that Russian soldiers shot civilians during their occupation of the city (www.donbass-insider.com/2022/04/04/ukraine-the-massacre-of-bucha-a-ukrainian-timisoara/). The corpses not being the bodies of victims of a criminal Russian massacre might explain why city officials originally at least did not draw attention to any corpses on their city streets, if we assume they did lie there for three weeks. Interestingly enough, post-battle videos of Mariupol show a similar pattern of corpses strewn along the streets intermittently. This is a pattern of war.

On 2 April 2022, the bodies on Yablonskaya Street were filmed from an unidentified car, and the video is published late at night on Twitter and replayed around the world as a ‘Russian war crime’. This suggests – putting aside the NYT/Maxar satellite photos – that these people died (or their bodies were placed) on the streets after the posting of the mayor’s video and before the time of the video showing the bodies on Yablonskaya Street on . But the same day it was reported that Ukrainian police had entered Bucha to flush out possible “saboteurs or accomplices” of the Russian troops (https://vesti.ua/kiev/politsejskij-spetsnaz-nachal-zachistku-goroda-bucha). They were accompanied by fighters under the command of Azov neo-fascist ‘Botsman Korotkikh. A Ukrainian police video of the bodies on Yablonskaya Street released on April 2nd (when it was made is unknown) shows thin corpses with fresh, clean clothing not bloated with filthy clothing that would be the case for corpses on the streets for three weeks (https://archive.ph/HRtqx; www.sott.net/image/s32/642783/full/Bucha_man.jpg; and https://web.archive.org/web/20220404073351/https:/threadreaderapp.com/thread/1510590248140800003.html). This indicates that if these are wounded and that they were shot very recently, not two days prior when Russian troops were in town. The video is taken from a military vehicle in the column, not the first vehicle in the column. An alternative but unlikely correct hypothesis is that the bodies were placed on the streets by Ukrainian operatives, photographed by satellites (Maxar has ties to US intelligence), and then removed. When Korotkikh and his fighters videoed their entry into Bucha and drive down Yablonskaya Street, there were no corpses. Korotkikh’s fighters seemed to receive permission to shoot at males not wearing the Ukrainian forces’ light blue armband in another video, when they were moving on foot. Russian and its allied breakaway republics DNR and LNR wear white armbands. Korotkikh posted a video titled “The Boatsman’s Boys in Bucha”, which at the 6 second mark has the following dialogue: “There are guys without blue armbands, can I shoot them?” “Fuck yeah” (https://twitter.com/RWApodcast/status/1510712264726396944). This would explain the white armbands on some 4-5 of the corpses shown in the above-mentioned videos, which are nevertheless being attributed in the West and Ukraine to a ‘Russian massacre’. Moreover, more of the corpses may be wearing the white bands than is obvious from the photos; the bands are not visible in the photographs because the corpses are lined up closely together and photographed from the side. The Ukrainian troops and militants, therefore, might have captured and killed white-armbanded civilians, regarding them to be collaborators of the Russians.

On the other hand, some Bucha residents have described Russians shooting Bucha residents. This, for me, is solid evidence that the Russian and/or pro-Russian (Chechen, DNR/LNR) forces likely also  committed some illegal shootings — war crimes — in Bucha (www.facebook.com/watch/?v=276797881324318). There is also the satellite video of Russian forces killing a bicyclist. But there is still no evidence of killing on a mass scale during their month-long presence in Bucha. As we shall see, the confirmed numbers to date amount to approximately one killing per day and no systematic policy that one would need to establish ‘genocide.’ The Ukrainians then added to the above-mentioned far less weighty evidence of a mass war massacre their false claims about hundreds of shootings and their victims’ mass graves. This is the first way in which characterization of the Bucha street dead as a large ‘Russian massacre’ is a ‘fake’, exaggeration, misinterpretation, or Ukrainian strategic communicators’ bizarre wishful thinking.

Mass Graves

There is a second sense in which the Western narrative appears to be fake or at least wrong. We have the Bucha ‘civilians’ (already declared so, despite the presence of non-uniformed Ukrainian defense formations everywhere in UKraine) buried in the mass grave near the church. However, their burial occurred in mid-March and bespeaks of something else than a massacre. It was ordered by the city morgue, overseen by a leading doctor from the local medical center, and videotaped. Those involved in the burial categorized them as civilians killed in bombings. Keep in mind that both Russians and Ukrainians were bombing each other, and the Ukrainian forces have been routinely placing air defense, artillery and other attack equipment near homes even though they died during the bombing and were not executed by Russian soldiers at all.

Western and Kievan media have ignored the date and videotaping of the 10 March mass burial of 67 bombing victims in order to write it off as the result of a Russian ‘massacre’. The first mass grave in Bucha, according to Maxar Technologies,  was dug on March 10th after heavy fighting as Russian forces attempted to enter the town (https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2022-04-03/satellite-images-show-45-foot-long-trench-at-grave-site-in-bucha-maxar). A local doctor calmly organized the sealing of the individual dead in body bags and their burial in a mass grave, which was videoed and placed on YouTube on the same day, 12 March. The doctor, Aleksandr Levkivskiy, is seen in the video speaking calmly and moving bagged bodies from a flat truck to the mass grave [See “«Братская могила на территории церкви»: в Буче похоронили 67 мирных граждан, погибших от обстрелов” (‘Common Grave on the territory of a church’: 67 civilians killed in shelling were buried in Bucha), YouTube.com, 12 March 2022, www.youtube.com/watch?v=FN7vYAU-2Vc and https://t.me/UkraineHumanRightsAbuses/1214]. This doctor also posted about his activities to evacuate the local population from March 8th to March 22nd, without any mention of Russian atrocities but mentioning bombing (www.donbass-insider.com/2022/04/06/bucha-massacre-when-satellite-images-and-videos-are-manipulated-to-tell-a-false-story/ and https://t.me/UkraineHumanRightsAbuses/1286). Some of the links just cited were once on Twitter and Facebook but have since been dutifully removed (removed Twitter posts regarding Bucha include https://mobile.twitter.com/gbazov/status/1511727185257762821; Facebook deletes include facebook.com/Andrii.Levkivs… then reposted here: ms-my.facebook.com/4kmps/videos/%…). So instead of being treated as a burial site of the typical victims of war or an event needing impartial investigation, the Bucha mass grave is being characterized by Western (first of all Ukrainian) governments and media as a grave of civilian victims shot by Russian soldiers as an act of revenge of a defeated army on the basis of pre-packaged interpretations and the complete absence of any evidence of an intentional ‘Russian massacre.’ This is all the more odd, since, as I have shown, Bucha was not under control of Russian forces throughout the entire period from March 9th to their March 30-31 withdrawal. We do not know precisely yet when and what parts of Bucha Russian and Ukrainian forces controlled in this period. We do know that Ukrainian forces had full control by morning, April 1st, just before the claims of atrocities emerged as police and neofascist forces hunted down colluders.

Even if one were to categorize all the dead — the 67 dead in the mass grave, the 20 on Yablonskaya Street, the 9 near and in the building where the Russian soldiers allegedly were stationed, and tens of others about the city — the number of dead killed by war crimes does not approach 100. The Ukrainian and Western governments claiming a Russian atrocity that killed 410 civilians. It remains unclear whether all 130 corpses are those of civilians, whether more than 20 were killed intentionally, not to mention whether Russian/DNR-LNR forces or Ukrainian forces did the killing. The 5 or so executed or shot wearing white armbands (several on Yablonskaya, at least one in a basement) were more likely executed by Ukrainian troops for collaborating with Russian troops. For a month Bucha was under shelling by Russian and Ukrainian forces. In such conditions one regretfully should expect tens, even hundreds of dead civilians.

Journalists, Apples, and Oranges

An April 11th NYT article claimed that “almost three dozen people where they were killed – in their homes, in the woods, set on fire in a vacant car park – and learned the stories behind many of their deaths. They also witnessed more than 100 body bags at a communal grave and the city’s cemetery” (I have no NYT. The article is available at http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/bucha-s-month-of-terror-how-russian-forces-left-behind-a-landscape-of-horrors-1.4850775#:~:text=Bucha%20is%20a%20landscape%20of%20horrors.%20From%20the,a%20few%20kilometres%20west%20of%20Kyiv%2C%20Ukraine%E2%80%99s%20capital). But the article notes massive Ukrainian attacks on the town, but attribtes no deaths to the Ukrainian army’s violence, only yhe Russians: “Days after Russian troops drove into town, the Ukrainian army struck back, setting tanks and armoured vehicles ablaze in an attack on a Russian column. As many as 20 vehicles burned in a huge fireball that ignited homes all along one side of the street.” By contrast, “the residents of Bucha had been sheltering from Russian missile and artillery strikes” (I have no NYT. The article is available at www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/bucha-s-month-of-terror-how-russian-forces-left-behind-a-landscape-of-horrors-1.4850775#:~:text=Bucha%20is%20a%20landscape%20of%20horrors.%20From%20the,a%20few%20kilometres%20west%20of%20Kyiv%2C%20Ukraine%E2%80%99s%20capital). In reality the article claims corroboration for 12 Russian war crimes and possibly another 20 (see Appendix 2). The article notes but passes without commentary that Ukrainian citizens were warned not to go outside: A Russian commander warned him not to go out on the street. ‘We have orders to shoot,’ the commander said.”

So the NYT has uncovered some corroboration for 12 Russian war crimes and possibly another 20.

In the article, the NYT with help from the local Ukrainian prosecutor mixed apples and oranges in an apparent attempt to pad the gravity of the atrocity: “Of the 360 bodies found through this weekend in Bucha and its immediate surroundings, more than 250 were killed by bullets or shrapnel and were being included in an investigation of war crimes, Ruslan Kravchenko, chief regional prosecutor in Bucha, said in an interview.” The figure of 360 falls short of the 410 shot by Russians according to Zelenskiy. More importantly, the figure of 250 falls even shorter and to be reached the alleged number of those killed by shrapnel was mixed in with those shot. How many of the supposedly 250 were shot? How many of them were killed by shrapnel (Russian or Ukrainian)? No clarity. Also, the NYT quotes local officials’ distortion of figures mirroring the ratios offered by the federal authorities, by claiming: “Overall, in the broader Bucha region, there were at least 1,000 deaths in the war, he said. The dead are overwhelmingly civilians. Only two members of the Ukrainian military were among those killed in Bucha city, according to Serhiy Kaplychny, an official at the city cemetery.” In this way, they attempt stealthily to attribute all the deaths to Russian bullets and shrapnel, and they repeat the underreporting of Ukrainian military casualties and exaggeration of civilian casualties. Anyone vaguely familiar with war casualties can tell you that civilian and military casualties are usually relatively comparable; a 1,000-2 ratio is impossible.

International Organizations: Better Work Finding Dozens, Not Hundreds Killed

As of April 10th, Human Rights Watch was able to document only 9 intentional war crimes (“killings of civilians”) and 7 accidental such killings. Not the hundreds declared by the West and Kiev, not even tens. Moreover, no evidence has been presented by HRW that Russians committed the intentional or accidental killings (https://strana.news/news/387546-human-rights-watch-zafiksirovala-mnozhestvo-dokazatelstv-voennykh-prestuplenij-v-buche.html). To be sure, Russian forces have committed war crimes. There are credible reports of three such crimes, including the killing of the bicyclist for which there is a video (www.reuters.com/world/europe/death-defiance-bucha-neighbourhood-that-was-held-by-russian-troops-2022-04-07/ and www.nytimes.com/2022/04/05/world/europe/bucha-shooting-video.html). Hardly My Lai 2.0, when indeed 400 civilians were slaughtered in cold blood in Vietnam by American troops. There is no evidence to suggest yet that they are on the scale of hundreds being claimed by Ukrainian authorities. The scale is reminiscent of what we call ‘war.’ Some soldiers are brutes, some are pushed to brutality by fear or anger; recall Mi Lai in Vietnam and numerous other war atrocities across history. But there is no evidence that these Russian atrocities are a part of Russian military policy.

The United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) also has concluded that there was far less Russian criminal violence in Bucha than the Zelenskiy regime and Western governments and media claim. During an April 9th mission to Bucha, UN human rights officers “documented the unlawful killing, including by summary execution, of some 50 civilians.” But there is no indication of which side committed the executions. Again, recall the National Police and punitive battalions seeking out colluders in Bucha from April 1st. In addition, “HRMMU has received more than 300 allegations of killings of civilians in towns in the regions of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy, all under the control of Russian armed forces in late February and early March.” In addition to “allegations” of Russian killing, the HRMMU has “also received information about alleged arbitrary and incommunicado detentions by Ukrainian forces or people aligned with them. In some cases, relatives do not have information about where their loved ones are, raising serious concerns regarding enforced disappearance, compliance with due process and the risk of torture and ill-treatment” (https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2022/04/bachelet-urges-respect-international-humanitarian-law-amid-growing-evidence?fbclid=IwAR2IYnFKNe3ibtN-vuv6oHX6BMcF0uNRuC1Eg0RJbJb3EVivRfiMcO6K9-k). This suggests that some of the dead may be the victims of Ukrainian forces.

CONCLUSION

So it appears, the Maidan regime, with help from Western governments and media, are attempting to parlay the overall humanitarian and military tragedy in and around Kiev into a provocative fake, which grossly exaggerates any Russian atrocities and covers up any and all Ukrainian atrocities that also might have occurred. Using the usual casualties of war as a foundation, they have padded exponentially the number of civilians deliberately killed by Russian forces in Bucha, which could a little more or less than a dozen and may not outnumber Ukrainian reprisals against those locals who may have colluded or even fraternized with the invading force, for example by simply accepting or trading for food or by somehow assisting the Russian forces by providing information. They raised the number of victims of repressions from somewhere perhaps in the teens, twenties or several tens to hundreds of murders–again perhaps in order to cover up equivalent war crimes committed by Ukrainians. It is suggestive that Ukraine and, in the UN, the United Kingdom blocked a proposal by Russia to discuss setting up an independent investigation of the events in Bucha.

Of course, perhaps all the caveats I have presented above will be explained by further investigation. But is not that the real point? Should not arrest, trial, and punishment come after the evidence of an actual crime having been committed is gathered, analyzed, and summarized to demonstrate commission of a crime and by whom said crime was committed? We had a hint of the Western attempt (and there will be Russian ones as well) to turn any tragedy in this war into a Russian war crime. Recall Senator Marco Rubio’s set up question to Victoria Nuland at recent hearings. He asked her about whether a chemical attack, should one occur in Ukraine, could be attributed to anyone but the Russians, and of course she said no. Remember this is in a country where those now in power arrived there blood soaked on the basis of a false flag terrorist snipers’ massacre committed by the neofascist wing of the Maidan protests and not by order of soon to be overthrown Yanukovych. This is in regards to a country embattled in war and seething with neofascist-led military and para-military units with ties to the same massacre of their own people and fellow Maidan demonstrators. Moreover, the founding experience of the Maidan regime – the spilling of blood of its own citizens and seeming political allies – shows just how impossible it is in this country (as in Russia often) to make determinations about whom has committed one or another crime. What appears to have happened is that some Russian forces reacted to their own losses and lashed out on the My Lai model.

It must be said that both sides are committing war crimes in this war, and most likely few if any will be punished. It is beyond ironic – indeed condemnatory of the human condition — to see Western, Ukrainian, and Russian sources expressing outrage at the atrocities committed by the other side, while hailing those committed by their own. With no one reporting in a balanced fashion, the sides grow intensively more antagonistic, assuring there will be massacres, extrajudicial executions, tortuous deaths, and the Ukrainians and Russians will have an equal hand in them proportional to their capacity. In the Russo-Ukrainian war, history is likely to record that there indeed was a moral equivalency. Proposed by NATO expansion to Ukraine and accepted by Putin, the decision to start this new war made all this inevitable.

Finally, it is disturbing is the massive attention, resources, and journalistic energy the West devoted immediately to frame the crimes as violence on an unprecedented scale and, in the view of the President of the United States, a genocide. This absurdity sits uncomfortably aside the blanket Western indifference to the systematic — not just spur of the moment — violence destroying and harming mostly ethnic Russian civilians committed by the neofascist-controlled Azov Battalion in Mariupol (and elsewhere) for weeks now. For those interested in the other side of the story — Ukraine’s war crimes and atrocities — approximately one hundred videos showing Ukrainian war crimes or eyewitness testimonies of Ukrainian war crimes can be found on my Facebook page. These cover only a three-week period of the war and do not amount to a definitive list. The videos testify to hundreds of mostly Donbass Russian-Ukrainians killed wantonly by Ukrainian forces. The mass violence first initiated in Ukraine on 20 February 2014 on the Maidan by the latter’s neofascist elements, killing approximately one hundred and wounding more, seems destined to metastasize further.

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**On territorial defense units’ vigilantism and human rights violations see, for example: https://t.me/UkraineHumanRightsAbuses/1354; https://t.me/UkraineHumanRightsAbuses/1355; https://t.me/UkraineHumanRightsAbuses/1359; https://t.me/UkraineHumanRightsAbuses/1364); https://t.me/UkraineHumanRightsAbuses/1345; https://t.me/UkraineHumanRightsAbuses/1446; https://t.me/UkraineHumanRightsAbuses/1505).

APPENDIX 1: TIMELINE OF BATTLE FOR BUCHA

Sources: Institute for the Study of War (www.understandngwar.org) and the Ukrainian news site Vesti.ua (vesti.ua)

FEBRUARY 27 – Ukrainian forces retain defensive positions in western Kyiv Oblast. Ukrainian forces reported halting Russian advances in Bucha, west of Kyiv. Several videos emerged on February 27 of destroyed Russian motor rifle and VDV (Airborne) elements in the town.[6] Russian forces additionally entered Borodyanka on February 27.[7] Ukrainian forces conducted a counterattack against Russian VDV forces in Irpin on February 27.[8] Russian forces committed reserves from the 36th Combined Arms Army to fighting along the western flank of Kyiv. The Ukrainian General Staff reported 36th CAA elements deployed to Bucha, Kapitanivka and Belogorodka, on the western outskirts of Kyiv (www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russia-ukraine-warning-update-russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-february-27).

MARCH 1 – The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense reported Russian forces looting in areas of Kyiv’s western suburbs in Bucha, Hostolmel, and Novy Basaniv on March (www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-1).

MARCH 2 – Kyiv’s regional administration reported that Ukrainian forces control all of Bucha as of 9:00 am local time on March 2, and social media depicted several destroyed Russian vehicles in the area following a failed assault.7 (www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/Russian%20Operations%20Assessments%20March%202.pdf, p. 1)

MARCH 6-7 – Russian forces have continued their efforts to secure control of the town of Irpin, approximately 20 kilometers west-northwest of the center of Kyiv, as well as the town of Bucha, about 4 kilometers north of Irpin, in the last 24 hours.[3] The Ukrainian General Staff reported on March 6 that Russian tank and motorized infantry columns are operating in the Irpin area.[4] Social media reports and reports from the ground support this assessment.[5] (www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-7).

MARCH 8 – The former Ukrainian mayor of Irpin reported that the Russians have consolidated control over towns around Irpin including Bucha and Hostolmel (the town near Antonov Airfield).[2] The Russians are using siege-and-starve tactics in these areas—preventing inhabitants from leaving while depriving them of food, fuel, and other necessities (www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-8).

MARCH 9 – The Ukrainian General Staff reported on March 8 that up to five Russian BTGs attacked from near Babintsi toward Bucha, roughly 25 kilometers northwest of Kyiv, but were repulsed.[5] This area has been the site of frequent fighting for many days, and the former mayor or Irpin said on March 8 that the Russians controlled much of it (www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-9).

MARCH 10 – Russian forces did not make any substantial advances west of Kyiv. The Ukrainian General Staff reported at noon local time on March 10 that Russian forces occupy a ring of positions north and west of Kyiv running through Poliske, Kukhari, Borodyanka, Andriyivka, Motyzhyn, Horenychi, Bucha, and Demydiv.[3] Russian forces made slight advances in Motyzhyn and Bucha, two towns west of Kyiv, but Russian positions in Kyiv’s northwestern outskirts remained the same over the past 24 hours (www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-10).

MARCH 11 – The Ukrainian General Staff reported at midnight local time on March 10 that Russian forces attempted to break through Ukrainian defenses in Andriivka, Zhovtneve, Kopyliv, Motyzhyn, Buzova, Horenychi, and Bucha (a ring of suburbs north and northwest on Kyiv) and later stated at 6:00 am local time on March 11 that Russian forces failed to secure any territory (www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-11).

MARCH 13-14 – Russian forces launched several unsuccessful assaults against Irpin and Bucha on March 13-14, attempting to cross the Irpin River.[12] Russian VDV (Airborne) forces supported by engineers unsuccessfully attempted to establish a pontoon bridge over the Irpin river.[13] The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces primarily continued to restore combat capability, regroup their troops, and improve logistics and have not resumed large-scale offensive operations, despite the limited attacks in Irpin and Bucha.[14] Russian forces have not conducted any major attacks on northwestern Kyiv since March 9 (www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-14).

MARCH 15 – According to Ukrainian sources, Russian forces carried out a “pogrom” at the Bucha city council building and detained several city officials (https://vesti.ua/strana/vzyatyh-v-plen-sotrudnikov-gorsoveta-buchi-osvobodili).

MARCH 16 – At approximately 13:00 Russian forces released several Bucha city officials, they allegedly had detained (https://vesti.ua/strana/hronologiya-vojny-v-ukraine-21-j-den-sreda-obnovlyaetsya).

MARCH 19 – Evacuations from Bucha take place (https://vesti.ua/kiev/hronologiya-vojny-v-ukraine-24-j-den-subbota).

MARCH 20 – Chairman of the Kiev Oblast military administration claims Russian forces are conducting “chaotic shelling of civilian objects” trying to “wipe off the face of the earth” Bucha, Irpen, and other towns in the vicinity (https://vesti.ua/strana/hronologiya-vojny-v-ukraine-25-j-den-voskresene).

MARCH 20-21 – Ukrainian sources report that among the targets of 30 Russian shellings of civilian housing and infrastructure over the last 24 hours is Bucha (https://vesti.ua/kiev/kievskuyu-oblast-za-sutki-obstrelyali-bolee-20-raz and  https://vesti.ua/strana/hronologiya-vojny-v-ukraine-26-j-den-ponedelnik).

MARCH 21-22 – Local Ukrainian sources reported Russian forces “entrenched” around Bucha on March 22.12 Satellite imagery on March 21 additionally depicted fortified Russian artillery positions northwest of Irpin (www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/Russian%20Operations%20Assessments%20March%2022.pdf, p. 4 and https://understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-22). The head of the Kyiv Oblast military administration stated on March 22 that Russian forces still controlled Bucha and Hostomel, that Ukrainian forces could conduct only local counterattacks, and that Ukrainian troops were preparing for a larger offensive operation—all of which would suggest that Ukrainian troops have likely not yet encircled Russian troops in these areas. These Ukrainian claims may reflect the expectation that the Ukrainian counteroffensive will continue and cut off Russian forces currently in the Irpin salient (www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-23 and www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/Russian%20Operations%20Assessments%20March%2023.pdf).

MARCH 23 – Local Ukrainian officials claimed on March 23 that Ukrainian forces have encircled Russian troops in Irpin, Bucha, and Hostomel.4 The mayor of Kyiv claimed that Ukrainian troops have almost pushed Russian forces out of Irpin.5 The mayor of Irpin claimed that Ukrainian forces controlled 80% of the city as of March 23 but noted that the Russians continue to fire mortars and Grad rockets at the town and that Russian saboteurs and looters are pervasive.6 We are unable to corroborate most of these claims, particularly the claimed encirclement of large groups of Russian forces or the liberation of Irpin (www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-23 and http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/Russian%20Operations%20Assessments%20March%2023.pdf).

MARCH 24 – Kyiv authorities additionally reported Russian forces in Bucha and Nemishevska constructed new trench lines in the past 24 hours, likely to defend against future Ukrainian counterattacks (www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-24).

MARCH 27 – Kyiv Oblast civil authorities and the Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian shelling concentrated on Bucha, Irpin, Hostomel, Borodyanka, and Makariv, though Russian forces did not appear to have conducted any ground attacks in the last 24 hours (www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-27).

MARCH 28 – Ukrainian forces began counterattacks in the Irpin area as a staging ground for counterattacks on Bucha and other towns. Kyiv Obalst military authorities confirmed the recapture of Irpin on March 28, removing Irpin from their published list of Russian-occupied Kyiv suburbs. The Ukrainian General Staff stated that Ukrainian counterattacks were intended to deter Russian offensive action (https://understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-28).

MARCH 29 – According to Ukrainian sources, Russian forces were resisting Ukrainian counteroffensives in the Irpin and Hostomel areas and continued to shell Makariv and Irpin on March 29 and remained dug in the Bucha and Nemishyev areas just northwest of Irpin (www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-29).

MARCH 30-31 – Ukrainian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces northwest of Kyiv pushed Russian forces north of the E-40 highway but also that fighting continued throughout Bucha, Makariv, and Hostomel in the past 24 hours” (www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-march-31).

APRIL 1 – Ukrainian forces either recaptured or Russian forces withdrew from large swathes of previously contested terrain—including Bucha, Hostomel, Ivankiv, and several smaller towns—in counterattacks March 31-April 1. Ukrainian forces attacked both directly north from Kyiv (through Bucha and Hostomel) and additionally advanced northeast from Zhytomyr Oblast into Ivankiv, likely isolating pockets of Russian forces in Kyiv Oblast (https://understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-april-1). Thus, Russian forces had full or nearly full control of Bucha for 9-10 days, from March 22nd to April 1st.

APRIL 2 – Russian forces withdrew in good enough order to mine abandoned positions and infrastructure to slow Ukrainian units, which conducted operations to clear settlements in the Bucha, Vyshhorod, and Brovary districts on April 2 (www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-april-2).

APPENDIX 2

The 11 April 2022 New York Times article’s eyewitness and hearsay accounts of Russian war crimes leading to death of 12-32 Ukrainian civilians:

[1 killing – “Russian vehicles were driving along a road at the end of their street and the neighbours heard two gunshots. They found him the next day, dead on the street.”

[2 & 3 – “On March 5th, a Russian sniper began firing on anything moving south of the high school. Auntie Lyuda was shot in the morning. That afternoon, a father and his son stepped out of their gate to go for a walk along their street, Yablunska, or Apple Tree Street. ‘They shot my son,’ his father, Ivan, said. ‘I was next to him. It would be better if it had been me.’ … By March 11th there were at least 11 dead bodies lying on the street and footpaths, satellite footage showed.”

[4 – “Shepitko discovered just how far the Russian soldiers had gone. His house had been ransacked, filled with rubbish and beer bottles. Then, in a cellar under the garden shed, his nephew discovered the body of a woman. Slumped sitting down, bare legs akimbo, she wore a fur coat and nothing else.”

[5 – “On March 24th, it had seemed quiet again, until a shot rang out on the way home. ‘It was so loud, I could not hear anything,’ Sichkar said. They all fell to the ground at the same time. Her mother lay silent. ‘I called to her but she did not move,’ she said. She lifted her head and saw the blood – on her mother’s face, her hair, and pooling on the road. Her mother, who was also called Tetiana, a homemaker (46), died where she fell. The Russian soldiers later detained her husband, cuffing him and putting a bag over his head when he asked to retrieve his wife’s body. They let him go later that night, dumping him still handcuffed and blindfolded in a different part of town. In a bizarre episode, they allowed her stepfather to retrieve Sichkar’s body and gave him a brand-new red car – which turned out to be stolen – to take her away in. The family buried her in the garden the next morning and parked the car inside the gate.

[6 – Natalya Oleksandrova, a retired optician, said soldiers detained her nephew, saying they would take him for two days of questioning. They held him for three weeks. After the Russian troops left, neighbours found him dead in a basement. “They shot him through the ear,” she said.

[9 – In the nearby village of Motyzhyn, revenge played a large part in the death of the mayor, her husband and her son, who were found buried on the edge of the village. There were signs of torture: broken fingers on their son and contusions on the mayor’s face, inflicted before they were shot by Russian forces angry that the Ukrainians had destroyed a truck and an armoured vehicle.

[9-29 possibly – The following day, a Russian armoured personnel carrier drove down a street, firing randomly into homes with a heavy machine gun, said Serhiy Petrovsky, the head of a local unit of civilian volunteer soldiers. He doesn’t know how many people were wounded or killed, but said that after the Russians departed, he collected 20 bodies in and around the village, from this episode and others. ‘They shot everything,’ said Rodchenko. ‘They shot at houses. They shot a woman on the street. They shot at dogs.'” It is important to note that some or, more unlikely, all of the noted “20 bodies” could have been deaths caused by Ukrainian shrapnel.

12-32 – “The same day, Russian soldiers detained Sukhenko (50), her husband, Ihor Sukhenko (57) and their son, Oleksandr (25), Rodchenko said. The bodies of all three were found in the grave.”

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Published 2018

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