Even with a semblance of normalcy returning to liberated areas around Kyiv, burial ceremonies continue for unidentified victims killed under Russian occupation early in the full-scale war.
Another 21 bodies of unidentified victims were buried in Bucha on Aug. 17. Instead of names, they were put to rest with number plates.
There are still more bodies to be buried.
After Russian forces withdrew from the north of Ukraine in early April, evidence of summary executions, torture, and systematic looting during the weeks of occupation came to light. The killing of civilians in Bucha, a satellite town just northwest of Kyiv, became a symbol of the savagery of Russia's war.
According to the National Police of Ukraine, at least 461 people were killed in Bucha.
There are about 50 bodies that are still unidentified, including the ones that were already buried, according to Kyiv Oblast Governor Oleksiy Kuleba. He said that their DNA samples were taken out before they were brought to the graves.
Some of them were shot while fleeing their homes, others were killed in their yards, and some were tortured in basements, the official wrote on Telegram.
“These are ordinary people who were killed by the Russians for being Ukrainians,” Kuleba said.
The bodies of victims continue to be discovered on the outskirts of Kyiv.
Months after Russian troops withdrew from the region, local authorities began burying bodies of unidentified victims.
The first of such ceremonies was held on Aug. 9, where 15 bodies were buried on the outskirts of Kyiv under a grim, gray sky. Arriving in a refrigerator truck wrapped in plastic, the bodies were placed in wooden caskets and then buried in separate graves.
The 15 unidentified victims buried on Aug. 9 included 14 men and a woman, according to a media report. Advisor to Bucha mayor Mikhailina Skorik-Shkarovskay said that eight of the male victims were most likely tortured and shot, Suspilne media reported. There is also reportedly a skeleton of a man who was killed in a car and a body of a woman who reportedly burned in a car.
The next one followed on Aug. 11, with 11 more unidentified bodies found in Bucha laid torest. They were among the bodies excavated in a mass grave in front of the St. Andrew's church in Bucha, according to the city council.
Over 1,300 civilians were killed in Kyiv Oblast during the Russian occupation, and Kyiv Oblast Police Chief Andriy Nebytov said in July that at least 700 of them were fatally shot with small arms.
About 300 people have been reported missing in Kyiv Oblast as of Aug. 1, according to Nebytov.
Asami Terajima is a reporter at the Kyiv Independent. She previously worked as a business reporter for the Kyiv Post focusing on international trade, infrastructure, investment and energy. Originally from Japan, Terajima moved to Ukraine during childhood and completed her bachelor’s degree in Missouri, U.S.A. She is the winner of the 2023 George Weidenfeld Prize, awarded for “excellent investigative and courageous research activities” as part of Germany’s prestigious Axel Springer Prize.
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