On March 31, the French Embassy in Russia reposted on Twitter a statement by the French Foreign Ministry marking the first anniversary of Russian forces’ massacre of Ukrainian civilians in Bucha and other Ukrainian cities.
The Russian-language post read:
“A year after the atrocities committed by the Russian armed forces in Bucha and other Ukrainian cities, France continues to support Ukrainian and international judicial authorities in order to combat impunity for these crimes.”
On April 4, the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned France’s charge d'affaires in Russia, Jay Dharmadhikari, to protest the French Foreign Ministry’s post.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement:
“Such provocative attacks by representatives of unfriendly countries sound all the more groundless because so far, we have not seen evidence of the so-called "massacre in Bucha" - lists of names of those killed, the circumstances and dates of their death, the conclusions of forensic experts."
That is false.
Ukrainian and foreign investigators and prosecutors have documented numerous summary executions of civilians in Bucha, whose bodies were discovered with hands bound and signs of torture. Investigators have identified the victims, interviewed survivors and witnesses and named Russian servicemen allegedly involved in the murders.
The city of Bucha, a suburb of Ukraine's capital Kyiv, was the site of the first clashes between Ukrainian troops and Russian special forces after Russia launched its the full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, when Russian forces crossed over Belarus' southern border and moved toward the capital.
Russian troops had controlled Bucha from March 5 to 31. After Ukraine liberated Bucha on April 1, foreign journalists entered the city and international news agencies began publishing shocking photographic and video evidence of the killings of civilians.
During the investigation, the bodies of more than 30 people in civilian clothing were found on Bucha’s streets and in the courtyards of houses there. Another 67 bodies were exhumed from a mass grave near the city’s Church of St. Andrew Pyervozvannoho and All Saints.
A Ukrainian police forensic medical examination determined that 40 of the victims were civilians and that several dozen had died as a result of gunshot wounds to the head and body. Ukraine’s UNIAN news agency reported about the exhumation: "Sometimes the terrible procedure was stopped by the anguished cry of the locals who came … in search of dead relatives.”
New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) conducted its own investigation and confirmed the allegations against the Russian army:
“[HRW] researchers who worked in Bucha from April 4 to 10, days after Russian forces withdrew from the area, found extensive evidence of summary executions, other unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, and torture, all of which would constitute war crimes and potential crimes against humanity.”
Serhii Kaplychnyi, head of the municipal funeral home in Bucha, told HRW investigators that only two members of the Ukrainian military were found among the dozens of bodies his team buried in the mass graves.
An employee of that funeral home, Serhii Matiuk, said that he personally collected about 200 bodies from the streets of Bucha starting in late February 2022. “Almost all were killed with a bullet shot from a close distance, either in the head or in an eye,” he told HRW. He said he saw “in total approximately 50 bodies with tied hands,” all of them men:
“The bodies had signs of torture. Their hands and legs were shot through. Some of their skulls were broken with blunt objects.”
Reuters reported on May 5, 2022, that Russian forces in Bucha went door to door rounding up men of military age for public summary executions.
Reuters journalists spent 21 days in Bucha, “interviewing more than 90 residents, reviewing photographic and video evidence these locals shared and examining documents left behind by the Russians.” They identified “individual Russian soldiers and military units present during the bloody occupation.”
An Amnesty International investigation conducted in April 2022 found that Bucha “was the site of a host of apparent war crimes during the period of Russian control.”
On May 16, 2022, the BBC, citing Ukrainian police, reported that following the withdrawal of Russian troops from Bucha, more than 1,000 bodies had been found in the Bucha region. It reported that many victims were “hastily buried in shallow graves,” and that “around 650 people were shot in what a Ukraine senior police official has described as executions.”
A May 2022 report by the Washington-based New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy and Montreal-based Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights, signed by more than 30 leading legal scholars and genocide experts, found that the well-documented massacres and summary executions in Bucha were among the Russian actions in Ukraine amounting to a “genocidal pattern of destruction.”
As of October 31, 2022, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had documented the killing of 73 civilians in Bucha while under the Russian occupation, including as a result of mass executions, and was working to verify another 105 alleged killings. OHCHR reported that many locals were shot for simply being on the street:
“Individuals driving vehicles inside the town or nearby, and those trying to leave Bucha, were regularly shot at and killed for no apparent reason. … Some civilians were killed on the spot, while others were detained and executed later. Local residents reported that some killings seemed completely arbitrary.”
On November 4, 2022, the Associated Press, PBS Frontline podcast and New York-based visual investigations firm ITU Research jointly published an investigation into the Bucha massacre based on hundreds of hours of surveillance footage and intercepted Russian telephone conversations. They built a 3-D model, reconstructing the Russian operation to "clean up" Bucha.
According to their findings, the Russian military went from house to house in Bucha, identifying potential threats and looking for suspicious residents. Those suspected of assisting the Ukrainian military were tortured and killed.
On December 22, 2022, The New York Times published a half-hour video of the results of an eight-month investigation of the Bucha massacre. Journalists interviewed eyewitnesses to the March 2022 events there, collecting telephone intercepts, radio communications, recordings from surveillance cameras and exclusive videos from government sources.
The NYT investigation concluded that the Bucha killings were committed deliberately as part of a plan to facilitate the further advance of Russian troops toward Kyiv. The newspaper was also able to identify at least 22 participants in the massacres - Russian servicemen from the 234th Airborne Assault Regiment permanently based in the central Russian city of Pskov.