New Evidence Shows How Russian Soldiers Executed Men in Bucha

BUCHA, Ukraine — It is the last time the men would be seen alive: In two videos, Russian paratroopers march them at gunpoint along a street in Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv, Ukraine. Some of the Ukrainian captives are hunched over, holding the belts of those in front of them. Others have their hands over their heads. “Walk to the right, bitch,” one of the soldiers orders them.

The videos, filmed March 4 by a security camera and a witness in a nearby house and obtained by The New York Times, are the clearest evidence yet that the men were in the custody of Russian troops minutes before being executed.

“Hostages are lying there, against the fence,” the person filming one of the videos says. He counts: “One, two, three, for sure, four, five, six … ” In total, nine people are being held.

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The men are forced to the ground, including one wearing a distinctive bright-blue hooded sweatshirt.

The video ends. But eight witnesses recounted to the Times what happened next. Soldiers took the men behind a nearby office building that the Russians had taken over and turned into a makeshift base. There were gunshots. The captives did not return.

A drone video filmed the next day, also obtained by the Times, is the first visual evidence that confirms the eyewitness accounts. It showed the dead bodies lying on the ground by the side of the office building at 144 Yablunska St. as two Russian soldiers stood guard beside them. Among the bodies, a flash of bright blue was visible — the captive in the blue sweatshirt.

A photograph of the executed men’s bodies lying in a courtyard, some with their hands bound, was among a range of images that received global attention in early April after Russian forces withdrew from Bucha. Russian leaders at the highest levels have repeatedly denied wrongdoing in Bucha and described the images as a “provocation and fake.”

But a weekslong investigation by the Times provides new evidence — including the three videos — that Russian paratroopers rounded up and intentionally executed the men photographed in the courtyard, directly implicating these forces in a likely war crime. Russia’s foreign affairs and defense ministries did not respond to requests for comment on the Times’ findings.

To uncover what happened to these men, the Times spent weeks in Bucha interviewing a survivor, witnesses, coroners, and police and military officials. Reporters collected previously unpublished videos from the day of the execution — some of the only evidence thus far to trace the victims’ final movements. The Times scoured social media for missing-persons reports, spoke to the victims’ family members and, for the first time, identified all of the executed men and why most of them were targeted.They were husbands and fathers, grocery store and factory workers who lived ordinary civilian lives before the war. But with restrictions on men leaving the country, coupled with a resolve to protect their communities, most of the men joined various defense forces in the days before they were killed. Nearly all of them lived within walking distance of the courtyard in which their bodies would later lie.

Return to Bucha

Russian soldiers first entered Bucha in late February, days after the war began, as they advanced toward Kyiv. Ukrainian forces were ready for them. They devastated Russian paratroopers at the front of the column in an ambush. Death notices and interviews with Russian prisoners posted by a Ukrainian YouTuber indicate that at least two paratrooper units — the 104th and 234th Airborne Assault Regiments — suffered losses.

The Russians withdrew and regrouped before returning March 3, making their way to Yablunska Street, a long thoroughfare running through the city.

Security camera footage obtained by the Times shows that the soldiers, like those who were ambushed in late February, were paratroopers. The video shows them driving vehicles — such as the BMD-2, BMD-3 and BMD-4 designs — that are used almost exclusively by the Russian Airborne Forces, according to experts from the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Royal United Services Institute.

The paratroopers patrolled the area, conducting house-to-house searches and operating in and out of 144 Yablunska St., a four-story office building that the Russians turned into a base and field hospital.

About 300 yards from that base, at 31 Yablunska St., Ivan Skyba, a 43-year-old builder, and five other fighters had been manning a makeshift checkpoint when the Russians returned. They had a grenade, bulletproof vests and a rifle among them, Skyba told the Times.

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