When Russian troops finally retreated last spring from the town of Bucha, Ukraine, they left behind a grim scene: bodies of civilians scattered on the streets, in basements, or in backyards, many with gunshot wounds to their heads, some with their hands tied behind their backs.
Russian soldiers had been trying to advance toward Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, but they met fierce resistance. During the five weeks they occupied Bucha, they appear to have taken out their frustration on the town’s civilian population. The evidence suggests the Russians killed recklessly and sometimes sadistically.
“They were not able to defeat our army, so they killed ordinary people,” says Nazar Havryliuk, 17, of Bucha.
The discovery of atrocities in Bucha—and other targeting of civilians in the war in Ukraine, such as Russian missile attacks on hospitals and schools—has prompted accusations of war crimes. President Biden has called Russian President Vladimir Putin “a war criminal” for his role in overseeing Russian troops.