Warning: The article contains graphic photos and videos from Ukraine.
Following the massive alleged summary executions that were discovered by the Ukrainian Armed Forces and local government leaders in Bucha, Interfax reported on April 2 that a ceremony awarding an unspecified Russian VDV unit (Airborne Forces) had taken place in the Kyiv region.
According to the report, the commander of the VDV unit presented state awards to the airborne troops who “distinguished themselves in performing combat missions during a special military operation,” the Russian Defense Ministry said through a statement.
The TV channel of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation “Zvezda” said that this unit was responsible for “mopping up” settlements in the Kyiv region to gain control over the area. Along with this unit of the VDV, the Russian marine corps were also present in the area conducting search and reconnaissance operations, sweeping the areas, and making sure there were not any enemies. This unit was led by their commander, Alexei Shabulin. They had allegedly swept through Hostomel, Bucha, and Ozera before retreating as they were reportedly shifting their area of operations to Donbas.
“Units of the airborne troops, in cooperation with the Marine Corps, for five days successfully restrained the actions of the enemy forces in the direction of Gostomel – Bucha – Lakes. As a result, the Marines were able to take full control of the territory from the Irpin River in the direction of Kiev, with a total length of five kilometers,” Zvezda reported before their forces left the area.
Russian Propaganda Doubles Down
After the awarding ceremony, Russian propaganda doubled down on its version of the story. Russian media outlet Ria Fan published a story entitled “Heroes Z,” which described Russian officers and soldiers as “true heroes” who protected the people of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. They were also described as performing their duties “bravely” and “with honor.” The article did not specify where they operated.
A Russian media outlet published a story entitled “Ukrainian ‘corpses’ move, get up and avoid transport,” which claims that the Ukrainian corpses in videos moved their hands and “removed their limbs” so that they were not to be run over by the wheels of military equipment. They also claimed that the corpses would “get up” after the vehicles had passed them.
Another media outlet in Russia also claimed the same “fakery” where they accused Ukraine of discrediting their military.
“One of the alleged victims can be seen raising his hand and the other standing up immediately after a car with an operator has passed by – this is noticeable in the rear-view mirror. We deliberately slowed down this footage, notice: the extras raise their hand, and the other stands up, deciding, apparently, that he has already played his role,” they said.
These claims were later debunked by Mediazona, an independent news website, where they said that the raised arm was merely a speck on the windshield, and the standing victim was just a mirror distortion.
So-called diplomatic adviser to the head of the leadership in the breakaway region of Luhansk, Rodion Mirochnik, claimed that the United States was using 150 PR structures/companies to promote the fake photographs and videos coming out of Ukraine. As of writing, there is no evidence to conclude that the West is proliferating fake news as the mass graves and executions were independently reported by various media outlets across the world.
The very well-known Russian propagandist Vladimir Soloviev also contributed to the Russian propaganda on his show broadcasted on Rossia 1 (Russia-1/Rossiya 1), stating that the West and Ukraine were “playing the Srebrenica card in Yugoslavia on us […] The British are primarily working there because it appears this entire provocation was thought up by the Britons.” He also praised the Russian troops and called for more rewards, bonuses, pay raises, and debt forgiveness for them.
Rossia 1 host Olga Skabeyeva turned the tables on Ukraine and the West, claiming that they were using what happened in Bucha to legalize future purges in the areas that were previously in the control of Russian forces.
“The West is using Bucha to legalize future purges in areas previously occupied by the Russian army. The people were killed by Ukrainian forces because they didn’t resist the Russians. The West is thus giving Ukraine approval to extrajudicially kill those they deem traitors,” she claimed.
She further stated that Bucha was chosen as the location of the “faked” summary execution as Bucha sounds like “butcher” as President Biden previously described Putin as a “butcher.” She also said that Putin described “them all” as “the Empire of lies,” referring to the mass executions in Bucha.
While these Russian propagandists continue to claim their innocence and characterize the attacks as fake, numerous independent media outlets around the world have reported otherwise. Ukrainian civilians in Bucha were found to be severely burned, with their hands tied behind their backs, and subsequently shot in the back of their heads. Mass graves were also found aside from all the dead bodies found on the streets.
Satellite images analyzed by The New York Times have provided evidence to refute the claims of Russian propagandists and Russian government officials. Multiple satellite images were taken by Maxar along Yablonska St. in Bucha, showing that the bodies had been on the streets since March 11, when Russia took control of the town. The earliest account of dead people lying on the streets appeared on March 9, whereas Ukrainian forces reclaimed Bucha on April 1. This alone debunks Russian propaganda that it was staged by the Ukrainians.
Furthermore, the New York Times reported that the causes of death were unclear just by analyzing the satellite images. Some bodies were beside impact craters, while some had their hands tied behind their backs, as earlier reported, and a number of bodies were found beside bicycles. It was found that some of these bodies were indeed shot in the head as per reporters on the ground as video evidence presented by Bellingcat. These corpses were found lined down for over half a mile on the aforementioned street.
New drone imagery shows Russian forces firing on a cyclists in Bucha, on Yablunska Street at 50.54148, 30.228898, where multiple corpses have been filmed and photographed https://t.co/1GPF9NJjcB pic.twitter.com/CBR3DnMyyq
— Bellingcat (@bellingcat) April 5, 2022
The location where the cyclist was shot was filmed after Ukrainian forces entered Bucha, where a corpse is clearly visible next to a bicycle. pic.twitter.com/uEKVpHycpy
— Bellingcat (@bellingcat) April 5, 2022
The Russian government continually denies the accusations, calling it a provocation by Ukraine and calling it mere propaganda. However, there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that says otherwise. An investigation was announced by the Ukrainian government for the alleged atrocities that had happened in Bucha and elsewhere as cases of gang rape and the raping of minors are widespread. Another case of Russians raping minors was also uncovered, this time a 3-year-old girl named Arina, who was found lifeless with her family.
Currently, Russia called for a United Nations Security Council meeting on the issue. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is also scheduled to address the UNSC on Tuesday following his visit to Bucha.