Mass burials still underway in Bucha more than four months after Russians massacred civilians
Burial ceremonies for unidentified victims continue in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, more than four months after mass graves were discovered after Russian troops massacred innocent civilians.
On Wednesday, poignant images emerged from such a ceremony in which a solemn Orthodox priest presided over a sea of fresh graves at a huge cemetery in the city just 24 km north of Kyiv city center.
Dozens of brightly colored coffins were dragged out of a loading van and painstakingly lowered one by one into the ground before large wooden crosses were driven into the earth to adorn the final resting places of the victims.
City authorities say 458 bodies have been found in the Bucha area since the end of the 33-day Russian occupation of the town in early April, with more corpses still being discovered.
Among the victims are 12 children, who in most cases were executed alongside both parents.
A total of 21 people, not all of whom could be identified, were buried in Wednesday’s ceremony alone.
Orthodox priest Andrii Halavin holds a funeral service for 21 unidentified people killed by Russian troops during a mass burial ceremony in the town of Bucha near Kyiv, Ukraine on August 17, 2022
Workers unload empty coffins as they prepare to prepare the dead for their burial ceremony
A worker screws up a plaque with the number of an unidentified person killed by Russian troops during a mass burial ceremony in the town of Bucha near Kyiv, Ukraine, August 17, 2022
Municipal workers bury unidentified civilians who were killed by the Russian army, during the Russian occupation of the town of Bucha
After all the coffins were filled and arranged throughout the burial site, city workers painstakingly lowered them one by one to their respective resting places as the priest looked on.
A worker places a cross on the grave of an unidentified person killed in the Bucha district at the time of the Russian occupation, during the burial at a cemetery in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, Ukraine, on 17 August 2022
Father Andrii reads a prayer and blesses the grave of an unidentified civilian. Each coffin is buried with a serial number – their only distinguishing feature
Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon visited a burial site in Bucha on Tuesday and called on the world to honor the masses of civilians killed by Putin’s soldiers as they retreated.
“It’s hard to express my feelings. It’s a horrible atrocity,’ Ban said as he saw the graveyard behind the Church of St. Andrew the Apostle, which was made famous in April when heartbreaking footage emerged from corpses lying in ditches as the golden domes of the church shone in the background.
“It is a crime against humanity and (those responsible) should be held accountable.
“All those killed here for no reason should be fully honored and commemorated in the history of mankind,” he concluded.
The former UN leader visited Ukraine as part of an international peace initiative known as The Elders, which former South African President Nelson Mandela founded in 2007.
Ban was joined by former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate like the late Mandela.
Santos also called the massacre of Ukrainian civilians a crime against humanity.
“The whole world should be very aware of what is happening and be able to support the people of Ukraine in their efforts to win their peace and freedom,” the former president said on Tuesday.
After touring the church yard and mass grave site, the couple were taken to see a photography exhibit inside the building with scenes from the aftermath of the intense fighting in Bucha in late February and March.
Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, center, and former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, right, speak to Father Andrii during their visit to Bucha near Kyiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday, August 16, 2022. Andrii on Wednesday presided over the burials of 21 unidentified people killed in the Russian massacre
Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, center, and former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, left, view images of mass graves at an exhibit in the church during their visit to Bucha near Kyiv, Ukraine on Tuesday August 16. 2022
Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, center, and former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, center right, walk during their visit to Bucha near Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday August 16 2022
Orthodox priest Andrii Halavin leads a funeral service for 21 unidentified people killed by Russian troops
Coffins and graves are seen in a cemetery during a mass burial ceremony for 21 unidentified people killed by Russian troops in the town of Bucha near Kyiv, Ukraine August 17, 2022
Excavators were used to move large amounts of earth to make way for new graves
The massacres of civilians in Bucha have become a symbol of the brutality of the Russian war in Ukraine.
They were executed as Putin’s troops launched a failed effort to capture the Ukrainian capital after it invaded the country on February 24.
After weeks of failed attempts to break through Kyiv, Russian troops withdrew from their positions north of the capital in late March, leaving Ukrainian authorities with a harrowing discovery.
Ukrainian officials said 116 bodies were found in a mass grave near the Church of St. Andrew the Apostle in the first week of April.
Likewise, haunting discoveries have been made in small towns north and northwest of Kyiv.
Each unidentified victim buried in these mass graves is given a serial number to keep track of the ever-increasing death toll.