BUCHA, Ukraine (AP) — The cratered roads have been repaved and the damaged houses are gradually being repaired. But the scenes that emerged from this town near Kyiv a year ago, after it was retaken from Russian forces, have indelibly linked its name to the savagery of war.
On the northwestern fringes of the Ukrainian capital, Bucha had been occupied by Russian troops for about a month, taken as they swept toward Kyiv at the start of the invasion of Ukraine that began in late February 2022. When they withdrew, they left behind scenes of horror.
Bodies of civilians lay where they had fallen, beside their bicycles, in their cars, on the sides of roads, in yards, buildings and homes.
“They were bodies of people in civilian clothing — women, old men, younger men” scattered in the streets, said Associated Press photographer Vadim Ghirda, one of the first journalists to enter Bucha right after the Russian withdrawal.
Many appeared to not have been dead for very long, looking almost as if they were sleeping, Ghirda said. Others seemed to have been executed, found with their hands tied behind their backs.
Over the next few days, AP photographers documented scenes of devastation in Bucha, where the events are being investigated as war crimes. Stunned residents emerged from their basements to find destroyed tanks and military vehicles littering the streets.
More bodies were found inside homes, others were unearthed from a mass grave. In the following weeks and months, hundreds of bodies were uncovered, including some of children. Not all have been identified.