Something horrific, amounting to war crimes, certainly appears to have occurred in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha: which appeared to come to light on April 1st.
This much is clearly true.
Since then, the horrible allegations and stories from Bucha and related towns near Kyiv have dominated the narrative of the ongoing Russia/Ukraine conflict.
Stories of mass graves, executions of victims with their hands tied behind their backs, and other horrors besides, have been repeated night after night: with the overwhelming majority of commentary firmly attributing the crimes to Russian forces.
As this article will show, however, this narrative is highly disputable: and there is in fact evidence to suggest a very different version of events to the one being propagated all over the media.
It is not the purpose or intention of this article to argue whether or not a massacre took place in Bucha: but to question who carried it out, when, why, and who the victims were. Asking these questions also helps explain why Russia has been blocked from requesting an independent investigation in the UN Security Council.
To start with, the extreme nature of the crimes alleged in Bucha were vivid from the outset. Volodymyr Zelenskyy described killing, rape and torture, saying Russian forces “killed entire families,” crushed civilians with tanks, cut off limbs and slashed throats. “Women were raped and killed in front of their children. Their tongues were pulled out,” the Ukrainian President said.
Some of these descriptions and claims seem, even on first glance, extremely propaganda-driven. Certainly, civilians were killed and crimes committed: but some of the descriptions of specific inhumane acts and torture seem so extreme that you wouldn’t be wrong for wondering if they’re embellishments. And Zelensky has been shown over and over again to exaggerate and embellish and to speak in highly emotional and dramatic language.
Either way, the Western establishment and media has done the usual thing: of wholesale buying in to the narrative set by Ukrainian state sources and of deciding – with little to no objective examination of evidence – that Russian war criminals massacred civilians in Bucha, including in some of the most inhumane ways possible.
The massacre claims were made on April 3rd/4th: the Western media and governments accepted this narrative immediately on the same day, without any additional fact-finding or verification of evidence.
Zelensky, in the typically measured propaganda language that has characterised his public statements for weeks, addressed the UN Security Council to call for ‘Nuremberg style’ trials to prosecute Russian war criminals.
But do we know what really happened in Bucha?
The answer is no. What we know is that there were many dead bodies, that people were killed, and that war crimes were probably committed.
Understand that I am not treating any of this lightly: only objectively. Which means I am avoiding the emotional language being employed in the mainstream media coverage – even though these claims, and imagery, of tortured victims, mass graves and unlawful killings are, of course, emotional by their nature.
But to present a more objective commentary here, emotionality needs to be kept out of it: I say this so that you understand that I’m not being insensitive to the matter of inhumane war crimes, human suffering and indignity.
Ukrainian sources, inevitably, were immediate in accusing the Russian forces of the killings. And Western media and politicians were, also inevitably, immediate in accepting the Ukrainian sources’ narrative at face-value – a dynamic that has characterised the information war since the beginning of this conflict. For example, in the case of the Mariupol maternity hospital attack: which I covered here.
Meanwhile, the Russians deny having carried out any massacre: and claim that Ukrainian forces either staged the scenes for propaganda purposes or carried out a massacre themselves, backed by their Western allies/sponsors.
Now, let’s sidestep both Western/Ukrainian propaganda *and* Russian propaganda positions for the moment: and let’s look objectively at some of this.
As some have already pointed out, the timeline of these events simply doesn’t seem to work.
We know that Russian troops had been pulled out from the area on March 30th.
The evidence of mass killings and war crimes didn’t emerge until April 4th: which was after Ukrainian intelligence, armed forces and media had moved in. With the Russian forces gone, Ukrainian forces entered Bucha on March 31st, with the reclamation of the city being announced by the mayor on that day.
Ukrainian militias, including Azov, reached Bucha apparently on April 1st.
How is it then that all of the bodies, and the evidence of civilian killings, were only discovered on April 3rd? As most of the harrowing photographic evidence and media coverage showed, bodies were pretty much laying openly in the streets – they weren’t hidden.
So why was there a delay in these claims being made?
As has also been noted elsewhere, the mayor of Bucha, when he announced the liberation of Bucha on April 1st, appeared to make no mention of a massacre or of civilian killings. He was smiling and in good spirits in that video statement.
Given how understandably keen Ukrainian sources, officials and media have been to allege Russian war crimes whenever possible for the last several weeks, why wouldn’t they announce evidence of these horrors in Bucha immediately?
Yet it took several days – and only after Ukrainian forces arrived – before word of these terrible crimes in Bucha began to surface.
Now you could argue that evidence of crimes, bodies, etc, had to be searched for first and gradually discovered. But, again, the narrative the world has been given is of bodies laying in the streets and of evident crimes that were not difficult to notice.
Another question worth asking: who were the victims in Bucha? Who’s bodies were they?
Again, the prevailing media narrative is to take Ukrainian sources at face value: and to assume these were the bodies of Ukrainian civilians – as in pro-Kyiv civilians targeted by Russian troops.
How do we know that though?
One disturbing detail that has been picked up on in some analyses of the images shows that white armbands are visible on some of the bodies: both in footage of Ukrainian troops driving passed corpses in the road and in some of the bodies of people apparently tortured and murdered in the cellars.
I’m not showing those images here because I generally don’t reproduce disturbing images or dead bodies on this website: but you can see some of those images here.
The white armbands suggests that those victims specifically were civilian pro-Russians or ethnic Russians: or, at the very least, people who were neutral or non-aligned.
Ukrainian armed forces wear blue armbands, Russians wear white ones. And civilians sympathetic to Russia would wear white ones.
If at least some of the victims, some of the bodies in the pictures, are wearing white bands, it suggests obviously that at least some of these people were murdered *not* by Russian troops.
That lends itself to a couple of different possible narratives: for example, one would be that – as the Russians allege – Ukrainian forces carried out killings designed to be blamed on Russia, and used pro-Russian or ethnic Russian people as the victims only to then present their corpses to the world’s media as those of Ukrainian civilians.
Another would be that there were various victims and bodies in the town, of differing persuasions, and all of them were essentially gathered and placed in such a way as to present the narrative of indiscriminate Russian war crimes: all of this would’ve occurred *after* Russian forces had already departed on March 30th.
This latter notion has ostensibly been debunked by the New York Times’ satellite images, seeming to show the bodies in the street weeks prior to the Russian departure: but we’ll come to that shortly – and also deal with the some of the shortcomings of that data and its apparent conclusions.
The point is that, if even some of the bodies being shown in images are those of ethnic Russians or of Russian sympathisers, then the current narrative of what happened in Bucha is inaccurate.
At the very least, it is possible that there were various victims and bodies – some Ukrainian, some ethnic Russian, some pro-Kyiv, some pro-Russian, some neutral, some combatants, some civilians – with various causes of death, some of which were in the fighting and some of which were unlawful killings: but that all of the bodies were arranged or presented in such a way as to put the blood entirely on the hands of Russian forces.
That’s one possibility.
But, in fact, there’s enough logic to suggest another, worse possibility.
What’s interesting to note is that Ukrainian special forces entered Bucha on April 2nd; specifically aiming to cleanse the area of any saboteurs or Russian sympathisers.
As reported on April 2nd on an American/European-funded Ukrainian media platform: ‘Special Forces Regiment SAFARI Begins Clearing Operation in Bucha from Saboteurs and Accomplices of Russia’.
It therefore would make some sense to consider the possibility that many of those civilian victims/bodies were indeed of pro-Russian or ethnic Russian people: the very people being targeted by Ukrainian special forces arriving on April 2nd, according to the Ukrainian media source itself cited above.
They arrive on April 2nd: the story of the mass graves, civilian bodies and massacres emerge on the 3rd or the 4th. Their purpose in Bucha was, as stated, to deal with Russian sympathisers or collaborators – and, as we’ve seen, at least some of the bodies photographed were wearing the white armbands associated with either neutral or pro-Russian civilians.
Speaking objectively, that timeline makes more sense than the prevailing timeline of Russian forces withdrawing on the 30th, but the evidence of the massacre not appearing until the 3rd of 4th.
There was also video evidence that appeared on social media – but was later removed – appearing to show Ukrainian troops (Kiev Territorial Defense) in blue armbands verbally clarifying whether they were free to kill anyone not wearing the blue armband (to which the answer was yes). Like a number of videos that have emerged in the passed several weeks of unlawful killings by Ukrainian forces, the videos usually get deleted or censored by social media platforms quite quickly.
So is this what happened in Bucha?
The Russians in fact requested an independent investigation into the killings in and around Bucha: it is Britain that, for some reason, blocked Russia’s request for a convening of the UN Security Council to discuss the allegations from Bucha.
In effect, Russia was prevented from presenting any counter arguments or counter evidence. At more or less the same time, Zelensky was invited to make his speech to the same Security Council in which he called for Nuremberg-style trials for Russia’s war crimes.
On April 7th, Russia was also suspended from the UN Human Rights Council.
There is an obvious and troubling absence of objectivity on display here: and a clear lack of will on the part of various vested interests in establishing a reliable, non-biased investigation into what took place.
It’s not my place or my interest to argue that Russian forces haven’t committed any war crimes. They may have: maybe in Bucha and maybe elsewhere. But it is my interest to scrutinise ‘official’ narratives and to ask for some kind of objectivity: which has been sorely lacking, as has been the case for the entirety of this conflict so far.
Such was the case during the events in Mariupol, which I covered previously. In fact, these horrors in Bucha seem to have emerged at the same time as the Mariupol narrative was collapsing.
In keeping with the principle of being objective, let’s also acknowledge that ‘evidence’ is also being presented, claiming to confirm Russian forces as the perpetrators of a massacre in Bucha.
For example, there’s the satellite images provided to the New York Times by NASA-affiliated Maxar Technologies. We are told that, ‘The Times compared images to video evidence and concluded: “many of the civilians were killed more than three weeks ago, when Russia’s military was in control of the town.” The images of Yablonska Street show at least 11 “dark objects of similar size to a human body” appearing between 9 and 11 March. Their location precisely matches positions where the bodies were filmed by a local council member on 1 April after Ukrainian forces reclaimed the city…’
There are also the claims that German Intelligence intercepted radio communications between Russian troops, which have been interpreted as corroborating Ukraine’s claims of Russian massacres in Bucha.
Whether those items of evidence are reliable or not can be debated: I’m not confident enough to engage in those arguments here.
However, regarding the satellite images, for example, there are follow-on questions. Proving that certain bodies were there in the same exact positions from three weeks earlier raises the question of why dead bodies were left on the street for that long.
Also, the New York Times satellite data only deals with the bodies in the streets: it doesn’t deal with the alleged bodies in cellars, the mass graves, or bodies elsewhere and allegations of extraordinarily inhumane crimes.
Nor does it relate to the question of who’s bodies those were. Were those bodies in the streets civilians or combatants? Is it not possible that those bodies in the streets were either dead combatants or civilians caught in crossfire: while additional victims uncovered in various locations apparently after the 4th April were killed at later dates – specifically at dates after March 30th, meaning they were not killed by Russian troops?
See, there are all kinds of ways these various claims, allegations and even data can be interpreted: and not all of them would lend themselves to the cut-and-paste narrative of purely Russian war crimes or massacres that the Ukrainian state and the Western propaganda machine are invested in.
The fact that Russia was blocked from requesting independent investigation in the UNSC is all the more suggestive of vested interests being worried about having their narrative compromised by real investigations and findings.
The satellite data – being treated as definitive by most media outlets – doesn’t really address most of the story.
And again, if Ukrainian special forces arrived on April 2nd – with the specific goal of cleansing Russian sympathisers and collaborators (civilians) – and the claims about mass graves, tortured bodies, etc, only emerged *after* that point, there is a clear and obvious *motive* for a massacre in Bucha at that point: both in terms of who did it and why.
Whereas the motive for Russian troops to have massacred civilians in Bucha is less obvious.
It would certainly have been stupid to have committed such horrific, inhumane crimes and then left the bodies and the evidence there to be easily found: with the crimes inevitably being exposed.
Also it should be borne in mind that, despite Ukrainian propaganda, the Ukrainian forces did not ‘liberate’ Bucha at all: they entered Bucha once the Russians had left voluntarily. The reason this is important to note is because, contrary to popular perception of the scenario, the Russian forces did not hastily retreat after some kind of battle forced them out – they withdrew from Bucha as part of an agreement that was reached.
So the idea that Russian forces, withdrawing as per an agreement, would carry out massacres and war crimes before they departed and then leave bodies and evidence of those crimes behind for the arriving Ukrainian forces and media to find is… well, it doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense.
Meanwhile, let’s also remember that a significant percentage of the Ukrainian militias and armed forces are populated by Azov and other Neo-Nazis or ultra-nationalists (including the special forces regiment that entered Bucha on April 2nd): with a history of extreme violence, unlawful killings, and a racial-supremacy-based ideology. Not to mention, again, that Azov and the special forces entering Bucha on April 2nd were arriving with the stated mission of cleansing Bucha of Russian sympathisers.
That such people would carry out unlawful killings upon entering the city is, frankly, more plausible than Russian forces carrying out such killings as they’re about to depart the city.
We know for a fact that the (Nazi) Azov Battalion was in Bucha from April 1st: because the New York Times had someone on the ground in Bucha, walking around town with Azov fighters.
And, as Jason Michael McCann notes in this April 4th article, the New York Times in its article from Bucha on April 1st seemed to not know any massacre had taken place: ‘The New York Times makes no mention of a massacre of civilians — and it has access to the city and the residents. There is obvious hardship and people, especially the elderly and infirm, are suffering a great deal. But there is no indication here whatsoever of a massacre… mass graves, execution sites, rape victims et cetera. Nowhere in the town… any hint of a massacre of the civilian population…’
And this is the same New York Times who, days later, published its satellite data to prove the massacre had taken place. But, like the mayor in Bucha, the New York Times correspondent on the scene on April 1st with his Azov friends (and let’s not even bother addressing the fact of Western journalists being embedded with Azov) reported no evidence or claims of a massacre: or of any of the horrors that were being reported by April 4th.
Which, again, means that something *drastically* changed between April 1st and April 4th. And, again, the thing that changed between April 1st and 4th is the arrival of Ukrainian special forces, Azov, and Ukrainian media.
Whether or not Russian fighters have committed unlawful killings or war crimes or not (and it is entirely possible they have), we know that Ukrainian forces certainly have committed such acts, irrespective of Bucha.
The clip below, for example, is one of many that have emerged over these last few weeks showing Ukrainian forces’ abuse of civilians.
Ukrainian SBU is arresting civilians in Dnipropetrovsk.
— Vera Van Horne (@VeraVanHorne) April 5, 2022
One documented such act is reported on April 7th; and has a clear similarity to some of the unlawful killings described as having happened in Bucha.
As Al Jazeera reports: ‘A video posted online and verified by the New York Times appears to show troops fighting under a Ukrainian banner shooting what is believed to be a captured Russian soldier outside of a village west of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv…Three other soldiers thought to be Russians can be seen dead nearby, one with a head wound and his hands tied behind his back… The Times reported that the purported Ukrainian soldiers are identifiable by their flag patch and blue armbands. They are heard saying “glory to Ukraine” multiple times… The dead soldiers are wearing white armbands commonly worn by Russian troops...’
The video was filmed north of the village of Dmytrivka, about seven miles from Bucha.
That’s clear war crimes being committed by Ukrainian forces, a few miles from Bucha and a few days after the unlawful killings in Bucha.
What all of this also highlights is the *reason*, all those weeks ago, why Western media and officials began establishing the policy of talking about Russian false-flags designed to look like Ukrainian crimes. I addressed this oddity right at the beginning of the Russian invasion, wondering why Western officials were suddenly talking openly about false-flags as a reality and why they were specifically predicting false-flags in which Russian crimes would be blamed on Ukrainian forces.
In other words, they were covering all bases ahead of time: for example, if Russia accuses Ukrainian state actors of staging false flags and blaming it on Russian troops, Western officials have already called out and predicted ahead of time that Russia would say such things.
Ukrainian forces, on the other hand, have a green light from Western backers to commit such crimes and stage them in such a way as to blame Russian forces: every time that Western leaders and Western mass media accepts Ukrainian claims at face-value and without verification, they are essentially inviting/encouraging said forces to do more of the same.
Which is why it remains highly likely that a chemical-attack false-flag is also on the horizon, as discussed previously.
As has been demonstrated then, the situation and dynamics are much murkier than the overwhelming mass media narrative would have us believe. Given some of the facts, discrepancies and problems highlighted here, it’s clear why Russia was blocked from convening the UN Security Council to discuss the subject: any fair investigation in Bucha would immediately cause problems in the constructed narrative.