“Brother, we’ve been looking for you for so long,” he says, bursting into tears halfway through. His brother, Dmitry, has been missing for roughly a week and neighbors told Vladimir he might be buried here.
“We thought you were alive,” Vladimir cries out.
Kyiv Regional Police and local residents say they believe at least 150 people were buried in the mass grave, but the mayor of Bucha says the death toll could be as high as 300. CNN could not independently verify their claims.
Vladimir gathers himself, comforted by his wife, Anna, and a neighbour, Liubov, and leaves. He says he believes his brother is buried there, but the sad reality is he cannot know for sure — and might not for a very long time.
As Russian forces retreat from the area around Kyiv, the horrors of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine are increasingly coming to light. The death and destruction brought by Russia’s war machine are on full display in Bucha, where bodies could be seen on the streets of the suburb as early as Sunday. Some had their hands tied behind their backs.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has blamed Russia for the killings inside the district, accusing Moscow of trying to put an end to his “whole nation.”
In some cases, entire columns of Russian armored vehicles were trapped on narrow residential roads before being destroyed.
“They thought they could just drive on the streets and go through. That they would be greeted as though it’s alright to come here,” Valery Spichek, an officer with the Ukrainian National Police, tells us. “Maybe they think it is normal to drive around looting, to destroy buildings and to mock people.”
“But our people didn’t allow it,” he adds.
The vehicles are now rusting away where they stopped, evidence of the heavy losses Moscow suffered before being driven out of the area around Kyiv.
The destruction extends to most buildings and other infrastructure around, with very few houses left intact, a majority unlivable after Russia’s offensive on the capital.
The scene in Bucha is similar to what CNN was able to see in other districts around Kyiv, such as Irpin, Myla, Hos
tomel and as far north as Bordyanka.
In the latter, entire multistory buildings were razed by artillery shells as Ukrainians and Russians battled for control of the area. Authorities say they fear dead bodies are lying underneath the rubble, and that the real death toll is still impossible to measure.