Warning

Warning: This site contains images and graphic descriptions of extreme violence and/or its effects. It's not as bad as it could be, but is meant to be shocking. Readers should be 18+ or a mature 17 or so. There is also some foul language occasionally, and potential for general upsetting of comforting conventional wisdom. Please view with discretion.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Who Killed Oleksandr Rzhavsky? And Who Killed his Son, Dmitryo?

May 22, 2022

(rough, incomplete)

< Bucha Massacre {Masterlist}

Introduction

Oleksandr Mykolayovych Rzhavsky (Ukrainian: Олександр Миколайович Ржавський) was an independent-minded politician critical of Ukraine's government and relatively supportive of Russia's. And yet the Russian occupiers of his city Bucha murdered him in his home when he refused to pour them more vodka, making him perhaps the most "ironic" victim of the infamous "Bucha Massacre."

To be clear, that's not an impossible scenario, with the wrong few soldiers and enough alcohol involved, regardless of ideology or loyalty. Furthermore, the claims seem to originate with Rzhavsky's family. Still, it remain questionable considering the apportionment of rational motive, the distinct possibility of coerced statements, and some circumstantial evidence this post will deal with. 

Even if true, the family's account makes the most sense as a drunken aberration, arising from one soldier's deranged mind. Yet to people trained to accept the most cartoonish of allegations against Russia and its people, the incident perfectly illustrates their evils. Some might see Putin's direct unhinged plans for genocide, starting conveniently with his own supporters... as if all that evil had left no room for logic. At the very least, this "ironic" murder shows the "true face" the subhuman Russian "orcs" who can only use up and destroy what others create. Anlexander Shvets, chief editor at Facts, would say "Moscow "brothers" showed him their true face. So that you don't even doubt anymore..." 

The speaker of the Odessa Regional Military Administration Sergey Bratchuk is one would gloat upon news of the murder: Rzhavsky "did not hide his pro-Russian views and spoke about the humanity of the Russians," and yet he "was shot dead in his own house. Well, son, did your [horse's ass?] help you?" Bratchuk was far from alone in this sentiment; the most common response to Rzhavsky's death is people laughing and calling it well-deserved - "karma" is mentioned. 

Some of those people would hardly feel differently if it turned out Ukrainian forces had murdered Rzhavsky as a collaborator, which is quite likely the truth of the matter. In a phone call allegedly made on March 30 - three days after his alleged death -  Rzhavsky can be heard refusing a Russian offer to evacuate the city with them, opting to return home despite warnings he might be killed as a traitor.  

As I'll explain below, Rzhavsky's son Dmitryo was brutally murdered in 2018, and it was investigated as a suicide. When his father followed him to the grave 4 years later, it was spun as the Russians suicidally killing their own supporters. The way the story plays so well to this propaganda technique is in itself strong evidence for a politically motivated false-flag murder. 

Mappable details, few as they are, add to the picture of deceit. As cited below, Rzhavsky's son Alexander jr. said "The Russians had a headquarters on our street in an apartment building" and one of his daughters mentioned he was detained by Russian forces as he passed their base at nearby "Victoria Park" on March 22. I could find no other reports mentioning a Russian base at a Victoria Park, and no such place is labeled on Google maps, but a hotel of that name appears in a generally wooded area in the north of the city that's shaded green like a park. It's not clear how far on what street their home was, but  FWIW the park is well within that held by Ukraine by March 19 per my information (see Who was in Control post for details - forthcoming). All the cited misfortune happened well after that. 


Perhaps there were still Russian troops based at the park instead, or even pseudo-Russians troops - an important possibility that I also should explore in more detail in another post. Briefly, though,  Ukraine and its front-line units might have maintained secret advances, deniable clearance operations, running concurrent with Russia's occupation so it could all be blamed on them. Mr. Rzhavsky for one gives clear reason for the hassle. All they'd need to convince most locals is captured vehicles or ones just painted with a V, stolen uniforms or just passably similar ones, plus some men able to speak Russian, willing to commit evil in Russia's name and to stay discrete about it. And if anyone's not convinced by that alone -  Rzhavsky for one probably would not be convinced - there's murder or implied threats to keep them quiet about it. 

Oleksandr Rzhavsky: Background and Political Views 

After serving on the board of one bank and as the president of another, In 1998, Rzhavsky was elected a deputy of the Verkhovna Rada. He was a candidate in the 1999 and 2004 Ukrainian presidential elections, the latter as leader of the One Family (or United Family) party, but with very low returns. (PolitradaOleksandr Rzhavskyy - Wikipedia - more biography at click-clicker )

A critical assessment at Cripo.com: "Alexander Rzhavsky's political views were rather "leftist" and pro-Russian. Thus, in the 2004 election race, he promised to fight the oligarchs using Putin's methods, disband the Ukrainian army (Ukraine renounces its army and become a World Center for Peaceful, Spiritual and Environmental Initiatives), and fund science and social programs. He disliked the Ukrainian government after 2014 and criticized its actions. He hinted that it was necessary to go to direct talks with the People's Democratic People's Republic of Belarus." After his death, an audio recording of Rzhavsky speaking against Ukraine joining the EU was published by Russian media. (Lenta)

NV.ua: "In his posts on the Facebook page, Rzhavsky claimed that it was Ukraine that did not fulfill the Minsk agreements, criticized the Revolution of Dignity and denied the presence of Russian troops in the ORDLO [temporarily uncontrolled territories of Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts]. "

TellerReport: "According to him, "everyone who tries to argue with the nationalists, they eliminate. “Kalashnikov was shot, Buzina was shot, Dima Vydrin left because when his student was shot, he was told that “you are the next one scheduled,” the ex-deputy added. Rzhavsky stressed that for nationalists in Ukraine, “violence is in the first [resort].”"

A Murdered Son

The family already had a tragic and troubling recent history. Rzhavsky's son Dmitryo was brutally murdered, it seems, less than 4 years ago. A director of the company BLITS-INVEST LLC, Dmiitryo's body was found on June 29, 2018 in a commercial building near the company's headquarters, with both his wrists and his throat sliced. 

Rzhavsky said in their last correspondences, Dmitryo "wrote to me in Viber that they were threatening him and his family." Dmitryo allegedly had a conflict with "the entrepreneur K" he was contracting with. (Operativno) A small amount of money had gone missing: 32,000 hryvnias [about $1,100 US],  but that seemed "a minor reason for threats." (Ukranews). He suggests there was another motive, perhaps in addition to the money. 

Ukrainian police opened a murder investigation, but also pursued a "main version" where Dmitryo committed suicide. Rzhavsky disagreed, saying in an interview "my son could not cut himself, he suffered from hemophobia (pathological fear of blood) since childhood." He also raised detailed questions about the physical possibility of this suicide and about the crime scene. "I saw something that the cops didn't see," he said. "The version of suicide is beneficial to any district police department," Rzhavsky opined. "They conducted an examination and closed the case - there is no need to spoil the indicators, look for a suspect, witnesses." (Operativno

A week after Dmitryo's death, on July 6, his bereaved father held a press conference, supported by the Interfax news agency, entitled "My son wasn't killed, he was tortured to death. Dmytro's martyrdom doesn't interest anyone except for relatives." (Interfax) There he said "Dmytro did receive threats, ... death threats, the murder of his family." He said the investigation was progressing slowly, with mistakes in handling evidence and witnesses. Not waiting for that to bear fruit, "the family of the murdered conducts its own investigation and restores the picture of events." (Ukranews)

In 2018, Rzhavsky again became the head of the political party "Edina Rodina" - United Family - which he maintained until his death. (Telegraf) It's not clear how the parallel investigations into his son's death ever panned out, nor how that or the mentioned threats mattered in Rzhavsky remaining armed to defend his family from the ultra-nationalists, later claiming to even have a sniper rifle.

His Final Weeks, Russian/Alternate Version

Rzhavsky initially doubted there would be a Russian invasion, comparing the constant dire warnings of that with COVID-19 "hysteria" as late as Feb. 14. Then he saw it coming but blamed Ukrainian provocation:  "Maidan and post-Maidan authorities, it is you who, with your incompetence and greed, have put the whole country, all citizens at risk of a real war." (Feb. 22) "I have appeared quite logical," he said on the 23rd, as he offered a confident, Marxist-style assessment of the geopolitical situation at the brink of what could be a real war. In part, he said: "During the negotiations, the Alliance saw the short-sighted, incompetent and stubborn leadership of our country scattered, looked at it, sighed and took all their citizens out of Ukraine, promising to help and observe from afar."

As Cripo critically put it, Rzhavsky "was very confused when Moscow once again attacked Ukraine" and from the start "he doubted who exactly was shooting at Ukrainian cities." When the war came to Bucha on the 24th, he posted on Facebook (6:55 AM) "There was a powerful explosion in the Gostomel area. I have heard it myself." At 12:14 PM: "Around the Gostomel airport you can hear the sounds of military planes and explosions. Who is this? " It seems that was the Russians, who dropped in by Gostomel, would be violently stymied at Bucha on the 25th and again the 27th, and who would be repulsed almost totally by the 3rd, but would then push back and establish general control of the city around the 5th of March. 

Rzhavsky would have less to say online in those days, but came back philosophically for a last post on Facebook, March 2 at 7:46 AM, seeming to question the invasion ("Why now and by means of open war? "). He wrote eloquently of the "absolute and cruel reality of the current moment," "a lengthy knockout of confusion," a new reality including tasks like "to guard, shoot, get food and drain gasoline for the generator." It was "a complicated, predictable post-apocalyptic future." 

What may be his last comment was to argue with a critic commenting on that post, early on March 3. A contact named Oleh Torgalo says Rzhavsky stopped communicating after March 4. (Cripo) Other accounts have communications going out for everyone about then. We have the family account (see below), but that cannot well fit in this narrative, in which there is almost no information on the days after this. 

As a prominent figure with pro-Russian views, Rzhavsky may have been turned to by the Russian occupiers, if not to assist their campaign, then just to make things run smoothly for his fellow citizens. On March 24, Rzhavsky was reportedly at liberty and able to host others, at least according to a comment on Facebook : "On the 24th, at the end of the circumstances, my friend and I fled the bombing in Kharkov, and we were taken shelter by Alexander Nikolaevich [sic]. Me and 12 others!" Kiev probably did not approve of such evacuations to Russian-held areas, where Rzhavsky would be hosting any such refugees. They sometimes call it kidnapping, and disapprove of people who facilitate it.

An alleged final word from Oleksandr Rzhavsky came as the Russians set to evacuate north and abandon Bucha on March 30. He was allegedly dead for 2-3 days when, Russian sources, say Rzhavsky had a final discussion by phone with what seems to be a Russian officer. A recording of this was published April 11 by RT (widely banned outside Russia - a second-hand posting on Youtube). As they reported "On the recording, it is also heard that the Russian military on March 30, before leaving the city, offer the deputy to evacuate in order to avoid danger, since Kiev considers him a traitor."

Russian statement: "The exits from Bucha were not blocked. All local residents were free to leave the town in northern direction, including to the Republic of Belarus. " This came into play especially at the end. 

He may have already been evacuated at the time of this call. It sounds like he's some place - perhaps in the city but not his home - where "there is water and it's warm here" as the caller reminded him. But Rzhavsky insisted he was “heading home” rather than staying or leaving with the Russians, The caller objected to this, warning "you will return home now and they will find you lifeless and hang this all on our leadership."  

He replied “Concerning my safety, I will be much calmer where there are my people, my family are ... if fate, then fate. This should be treated philosophically. And look: Bucha is in the grip [Ukrainian controlled?]. Who will go [to me]? Do you think some kind of quiet saboteur is sitting there and sharpening a knife?" They were known to be in charge. To kill him now ... was still quite possible, actually. They'd just have to backdate the killing, as they may have done. 

Rzhavsky also said he owned a “sniper rifle” and was able to defend himself and his family should any threat from Ukrainian extremists arise. "I do not accept all those tricks with violence against people who stand up. I don't accept it at all. And for them [nationalists], this is the basis — violence against a person." And so, in the Russian's version, Oleksandr Rzhavsky returned home, underestimating the threat he faced, and "was found dead ... shortly after the withdrawal of Russian forces from the area on March 30" and as predicted "the Russian troops were accused of his murder."

Naturally, the Russian claims and phone call have been challenged, but neither widely nor sharply. One anti-Russian site Lead Stories said "the RT article did not question the fact of Rzhavsky's death, but hinted that the Ukrainian side could be involved in this." Lead Stories was unable prove the call fake, nor of course to verify it was real, and mainly just raised doubt about when it was recorded,

"The circumstances of this conversation, as well as the identity of the alleged Russian soldier whose voice is present in the audio clip, are not disclosed, making it impossible to independently verify. It also lacks references to any events that could clearly indicate the day the recording was made." 
This suggests the Russians may have post-dated a real call in order to undermine the official story. 
Logically, that is at least as possible as backdating the murder, but the reasoning is weak. The call seems related to the final evacuation of Bucha "in the grip." Ukrainian control came just before and after the evacuation that happened on March 30. The call poses this as imminent, as a ship he could soon miss. 

That situation had not quite materialized by the 27th, and Rzhavsky was still at home in that version, not planning to return home. The circumstances of this call line up with a later date and a different story from what his family has told. If it's not fake, that's a huge problem.

Official Story, Family, Friction with "Facts"

The prevailing narrative - in which Rzhavsky was killed three days before the above phone call - comes totally, that I've seen, from a few comments or statements on Facebook. Everything else I've seen refers back to these (but I'm sure I haven't seen everything). 

The earliest explicit report was on April 7, by chief editor at Ukrainian news site "Facts," Alexandr Shvets, posting on Facebook: "When the aggressor troops entered Bucha and the occupiers settled in his vast estate, Rzhavsky tried to find a common language with them." But he was finally "outraged by their behavior and refused to pour vodka. Was shot dead immediately," in his own house, in front of his own family.

A "fact check" at Lead Stories agrees Shvets' post was where "The death of Rzhavsky was first reported." They noted how Shvets's characterization was rebutted by a few readers, including a surviving son, Alexandr Rzhavsky jr. He chided Shvets:
"...there is no need to disperse the fakes. No one has settled in our house. The Russians had a headquarters on our street in an apartment building. And in the evening, a drunk soldier of the Russian Federation broke into our house demanding more booze. Dad was trying to have a normal conversation with him, protecting my mom and aunt. He killed him because he could. There is no politics here. Just a terror."
Ensuing comments, including by Shvets, disputed this, insisting on the political lessons to be drawn, especially the irony entailed in Rzhavsky's views about "the Russian world." (and note: it was confusing at first when two Alexanders were discussing another [Oleksandr] and referring to each other by name, in screen-grabbed quotes)

The most pivotal statements come via the deceased's possibly hacked Facebook account - aleksandr.rzhavsky (not his son's account alexandr.rzhavsky.1),  credited to his daughters and "the family" and citing Oleksandr's wife and older sister. These were most likely authored by them, but possibly coerced somehow. 

Oleh Torgalo spoke with one of Rzhavsky's daughters on the 4th (unclear how) and, as reported:
"She said that during the occupation, her father was twice abducted as the owner of a large estate, demanding a ransom, and both times he managed to escape without money. They were robbed, their phones and weapons were confiscated. And on March 27 Muscovites arranged a binge at their house. And when their father remarked to them and refused to give them vodka again, he was shot right in the house." (Cripo)

Daughters of the deceased, in a post on their father's account on or by April 9 (now private/unavailable, but previously cited) explained how Oleksandr Rzhavsky never expected this invasion, but "Every Ukrainian since the beginning of the war has had a complete reassessment of values, and [papa] was no exception." This suggests he had changed his views and only "wanted peace, so that people do not die, so that the authorities make the right decisions, so that the eyes of the people are not blind."" (NV.ua) daughters Yulia and Alice are credited in a different paraphrasing of the same post: "Russian scum entered the house and, at gunpoint, begged for a bottle of wine, they gave him alcohol (like food and phones earlier), so that he left and did not return. However, this Russian scum wanted not only to drink but also blood. He kept at gunpoint and my aunt, who ran to the aid of my dad, her younger brother, but it was too late" March 27 is cited. (ACLOS - Who is Olexander Rzhavsky and how did he die in Bucha (click-clicker.com)

They also deny that their house was a base of Russian troops, as Shvets had suggested. "It's just heresy and thoughts of an inflamed mind. For the curious, I will answer - their base was in Victoria Park, because it was there on March 22 that my father was captured, having left for humanitarian aid, where he was held for more than a day. After that, the soldiers unceremoniously broke into our house, took phones and food, and then left." Note: Kidnapped 3/22 and held more than a day, followed by a robbery of the family home vs. - by the other narrative - on 3/24 he was not just free but hosting others, presumably with Russian approval, but perhaps not at his own home.

"The official statement of the Rzhavsky family" was less propagandistic, and only posted April 11. It's currently public (it seemed like it wasn't for a while?), unlike the above, which remains invisible. It says in full:
"On March 27, 2022, in the territory of the own yard in the city of Bucha, in front of the eyes of his wife and sister, Alexander Mykolajovich Rzhavsky  was killed. He recently turned 63 years old.
Drunk from his own impunity a "Russian" soldier [took] the life of a man close to us who all his life tried to protect us from all sorts of evil. But his energy was not enough for our family and therefore he tried to be as useful as possible for his Ukraine, which he loved infinitely."

Sincerely yours truly,
Larisa Rzhavskaya, wife
Alexander Rzhavsky, son
Alexey Rzhavsky, son
Alice Rzhavskaya, daughter
Julia Rzhavskaya, daughter
Zoya Rzhavskaya, sister
Anastasia Kirieva, sister
The issues raised by the family to rebut Shvets seem minor compared to the questions I have: one drunk soldier vs. a group of them - there on a drunken visit vs. based there. Those are significant differences, but the main story is strangely agreed on - he was robbed and then killed by the Russians over nothing, not killed by Ukrainians for being a traitor. No one alive in Ukraine and in a position to know has been quoted as even suggesting this. The only real, public, dispute is over how ironic vs. just tragic that story is.

A "fact check" at Lead Stories notes how a question did emerge about the strange lack of reports before April 7, regarding a witnessed murder on March 27. Answering the question, Lead Stories notes "On his Facebook page, the son wrote on April 3: "Burn these Russians in hell! Let's not forget Bucha!!!" The post did not contain details of what happened, but people in the comments instantly began to express condolences." Indeed. I find that was posted 11:30 PM local time on the 3rd.  And ... "on April 4, Torgalo was able to talk to [Rzhavsky's] daughter," hearing a version of the same story.  

But even with that, the delay is odd. He was killed 3/27 but there was no news from 3/27 to "liberation" on the 31st, or even on April 1, or 2 or most of April 3. There was no news to the contrary I'm aware of in the same 7-day span, or any time since March 4th. But why would it still be so slow to get week-old news out of Bucha, with two surviving witnesses? 

This knowledge appearing only late on the 3rd is more consistent with a murder in early April. This also fits better with how it would take another week from then to assemble a family statement on the 11th, after a seemingly retracted version on the 9th. 

Such a grandly telling story of Russian treachery against a slightly famous Ukrainian should have made excellent front-page news. There should have been more details to confirm the damning story, fresh on-camera interviews about the lessons learned, and all that. Instead, it seems the victim's family has been given the cold shoulder from the start. Consider Shvet's response to Alexander jr.: "Here you are, Alexander, and rewrote what was written in my post. The text in front of you - there is no word about being "sheltered". He distorts the protests to seem unjustified; they used the same word, translating "settled," He makes intent the issue, bringing in "sheltered," suggesting they both know that IS what he meant, and it's true. That's sneaky, and it tires to ignore that settled OR sheltered is denied - the Russians were just based elsehwhere. But Shvets sticks to what someone else told him, and then piles on the propaganda:
Do you demand an objective? The objective of the "Russian world", for which your father and his like-minded people were so saving, is that it broke into your house and killed your father. And you’re saying there’s no politics involved? Your right to say so. Our right is to protect our country from Russian fascist impurity. She didn't just break into the house of the Rzhavsky. But also in thousands of our homes. She not only killed Alexander Rzhavsky, but also thousands of Ukrainians who are innocent.

Oleksandr Rzhavsky was not "innocent." Unlike others, he brought it on himself, maybe even deserved to die. So implies Facts editor Alexander Shvets. Then, tellingly, he makes a show of cutting off the Rzhavsky family rather than sorting things out. If they couldn't yet make the leap to admitting Oleksandr basically deserved to die, there was nothing anyone needed to hear from them. This was done in solidarity with more heroic Ukrainians, of course. 

We will not interview you. You guys don't deserve this. We will be interviewing those who are fighting with the enemy for our independence, our country, our children, our politicians, who do not tolerate the "Russian world" in its wild and brutal manifestations, which now terrorizes all civilized humanity."
The family rebuttals were read as intended to "deny the words of the journalist about the pro-Russian views of the deceased." or as one comment put it "now, so that people do not spit on the grave, the whole family is enrolling as patriots. Gross !!!" denying the "politics," the irony ... and also, conversely, the motives for Ukrainian fascists to have killed him.  It was also "tolerance" of the "Russian world," for which there can be no tolerance anymore. 

The denials were too little and too late. The lessons learned were clear enough, with just a bare minimum from the closest sources. That came in delayed, limited commentary, mainly April 7 to 11, with perhaps no word from them since that phone recording came out, also on April 11. One wonders what they think of that.

So ...
The family can't be speaking at Russian gunpoint now that they're gone, but if Ukrainians killed Rzhavsky, then we should expect threats and false claims, so this testimony does little to contradict that possibility. Nonetheless, it might be accurate to what they saw, and they might have seen real Russian troops or fake ones, especially considering the area was likely inaccessible to real Russian forces since March 19, It sounds like all his troubles only came after Kiev's forces were most likely in charge. Maybe they were but they chose to have their pseudo-Russians occupy for a while, to get some dirty work done before they openly acknowledged control.

According to Russian sources, Rzhavsky was in some kind of contact with them at the end, and likely before. He possibly was "collaborating" - just to make things run smoothly for his fellow citizens, or maybe in continued support of the "Russian world." Helping relocate refugees, from within a Russian-occupied area might fit the bill. He allegedly hosted Russian forces at his estate. Shvets was told they "settled" there, although no one said Rzhavsky "sheltered" them, until Shvets suggested just that, because he always did mean that. It's disputed but alleged anyway, and this treason is already given as a possible reason for extrajudicial execution or, repurposed, as a cause for heightened "irony." 

No one is his family has even hinted that it went down like that, but still, let's consider this alternate narrative alongside the official version. In the end, it still seems possible these two might still be valid but flawed views of the singe truth somewhere between. Or, of course, one narrative is mostly bogus. It should be pretty clear that I suspect Ukrainian foul play and have to doubt what the family has said, but as I also noted at start, a drunken murder is not that outlandish either, and I don't lightly dismiss eyewitness testimony. 

The 2 versions in review, compared in a timeline:




Saturday, May 21, 2022

Bucha Mass Execution Video: A False-Flag?

May 21, 2022

(rough, incomplete)

Bucha Massacre {masterlist} 

May 25: I'm finally pulling down my entire post on this rather than trying to fix it in place. I'll be re-working it alongside a post on who controlled Bucha where and when. It will be some days at least. 

I raised questions about the recent New York Times investigation and article: "New Evidence Shows How Russian Soldiers Executed Men in Bucha: Witness testimony and videos obtained by The New York Times show how Russian paratroopers executed at least eight Ukrainian men in a Kyiv suburb on March 4, a potential war crime." https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/19/world/europe/russia-bucha-ukraine-executions.html

I'd have to subscribe to the rag to read it there, but I read an archived copy where the videos don't work, saw the most relevant videos on Twitter, posted in a short thread by NYT freelance video journalist Masha Froliak, and had people share some other bits from other videos.

But I hadn't read the article when I first did this post, nor correlated everything well at all, and then I ran ahead assuming another video of the site was dated March 4. In comparison, that suggested the "Russians" seen arresting the 9 men earlier that day and the "Russians" seen there on March 5 were different groups, who seemingly fought a battle in between their occupations of the massacre site. That is, I thought I had Ukrainian false-flaggers playing Russians in charge at the murder time, then chased away by the actual Russians. But upon learning more, most logically, that video was from March 3, andv fits fairly well with the NYT report. It's interesting in different ways I need to work out.

A Twitter discussion with Qoppa, Kobs, and Collapse Into Now that started here has been super helpful. For now, I concede it's likely enough the Russians committed a war crime in this case, as the impressive-seeming investigation clearly found, I still more-than-half-suspect it was a false-flag, but that could just be habit, or anyway the case for that isn't so clear. I'm not arguing any one answer for now, just trying to get a basis to know what to argue. 

As part of the Bucha massacre story I've chosen to stick with, I will need to actually get this. A firm answer seeming unlikely, there are at least some questions worth raising, and more discussion might help decide which those are. I invite more of that here, and I plan to engage in it this time, including to catch up on what's already here. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Sergei Kolosei, the Bucha Massacre's First Named "Suspect"

May 19, 2022

(rough, incomplete)

Bucha Massacre {masterlist} 

A First Lead in a Leading War Crimes Case

Ukrainian authorities will be especially keen to secure justice for the Massacre at Bucha (or Buchi, as it's often given). Russian forces killed some 400 civilians, as it's told, during a month-long occupation of this town almost at the Kyiv's doorstep. This is the big story that supposedly clarified Russia's boundless brutality, that brought even Germany - along with Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden to expel Russia's ambassadors in early April. Expanded EU economic sanctions were inspired by "the atrocities committed by Russian armed forces in Bucha" during March. (Wikipedia: Bucha Massacre)

But in Ukraine's investigation of the killings at Bucha, the first big lead seems to be a massive blunder that raises questions about the entire effort. 

On the 2nd of May came some big news: the Ukrainian General Prosecutor's office issued a statement describing a certain unnamed suspect who sounded quite guilty:

"Under the procedural guidance of the Bucha District Prosecutor's Office, a serviceman of the Federal Service of the National Guard of the Russian Federation was suspected and reported in absentia of violating the laws and customs of war combined with premeditated murder (parts 1, 2 of Article 438 of the Criminal Code). ... The issue of declaring the suspect on the international wanted list is being resolved."

Specifically, the suspect was accused of executing four civilians and beating and threatening another "to confess to subversive activities against the Russian army." Furthermore, "his involvement in other war crimes in the Kyiv region is currently being investigated." 

This story had some help in the preceding days: Richard Lloyd Parry at The Slimes of London would write on April 28 how he was shown a video - by Ukrainian prosecutor Ruslan Kravchenko -  of four men being executed on March 18. No suspect is mentioned. The next day, Chris Jewers at the UK Daily Fail would also tell of that crime and its victims, adding that Ukrainian prosecutors "were investigating 10 Russian soldiers for alleged war crimes in Bucha." The statement highlighting one of these came four days later.

Iryna Valentynivna Venediktova (Ірина Валентинівна Венедіктова) is Ukraine's first female prosecutor general, the first woman to hold this office. She rode to power in 2018-19 with Zelensky's “Servant of the People” party. Previously she was Director of the State Bureau of Investigations, with a background in civil law and science, having authored "more than 100 scientific and scientific-methodical works published in national and foreign publications." (Iryna Venediktova - Wikipedia) With steely-eyed resolve and presumably scientific methodology, she hunts down Russian war criminals who harm her fellow Ukrainians, notably in Bucha. 

On May 2, she would take the day's statements a step further, publishing the suspect's name on her Facebook account, along with details of his alleged crimes: 

"The first suspect in the Buchi murders has been identified - the commander of the National Guard Unit of the Russian Federation Sergei Kolosei," rank apparently unknown. 

Venediktova sought to anchor the allegation to the undeniable visual record, placing Mr. Kolosei on March 18 at one of the most famous killing sites, at a roundabout where Yablunska and Yaremchiuka streets meet. It was "one of the symbols of the atrocities in Bucha," as she said. One man was bound and presumably executed. Three others (one of them, as she notes, is off-frame here) might have been executed or killed by the shelling evidenced at the site. (see here - Monitor post f/c) Also by March 18, it seems quite unlikely Russian forces were operating at this far corner of town in what was always a no-man's land. 


Next, who she tied to those killings, also in visual form:

"The second photo is the commander of the unit of the Administration of the Federal Service of the National Guard of the Russian Federation Ulyanovsk region. At the Belarusian post office with colleagues-military personnel sends [looted goods] to the homes of their compatriots. His "gift" from Ukraine to Ulyanovsk is the hood of a car trunk."

How they made this connection with that video or established Kolosei's status was not explained. This is what we'll explore below: "a circular investigation gets twisted." 

But according to Venediktova, his guilt for atrocities was already "found" through a rigorous police investigation: "Buchi prosecutors and police have found that it was this soldier who killed four unarmed men in Buchi on March 18." Separately, on March 29, he was accused of forcing another citizen "to confess to the fake activity against the Russian army," employing beatings, a mock execution, and "forcing him to smell a dead man." (Russian forces would leave Bucha entirely by March 31). 

"Are You Crazy?" Kolosei Refutes the Charges

Thousands re-posted and re-publicized these accusations, spurring wishes for Mr. Kolosei's imprisonment, death and/or swift entry into Hell. Mostly this was in social media; high-profile endorsements of the allegation might have been planned - it seems they had been prepared for. But no big news articles appeared before the story was instantly cast into serious doubt. 

Some strong refutations quickly emerged, were given a decent hearing, and thus far (2 weeks on), have faced no serious rebuttals. No less a mainstream source than Ukrainian Pravda would report on Mr. Kolosei's denials the same day, May 2. This gives direct quotes including (translated): 

“I don’t serve in the National Guard. Are you crazy? ... Before you accuse someone of something, establish all the details, otherwise you will be accused of threatening and slandering peaceful citizens of other states." 

Pravda cited Медуза — LIVE, citing Можем объяснить (We Can Explain): "The MO correspondent managed to find the suspect in Vkontakte and talk to him. For some reason, he is registered on the social network under another surname - Kalotsky, but admits that his real last name is Kolotsy." 

The quotes cited around follow, so apparently MO interview by VKontakte is the original source. See also as needed: Nasha Niva - UNIAN citing Zeralko (Belarus). Additional information would appear on a new Instagram page Mr. Kolose started to refute the allegations, A Belarusian news video he shares there may be helpful for those who can understand the words.

Between all sources, here is what's undisputed about the suspect: Name: Sergey Aleksandrovich Kolosei (Сергія Александрович Колоцея), age 35, from Mozyr, Belarus. A former Mixed Martial Arts fighter with a short, unimpressive career ("Kolotsei accumulated an 0-2 professional record in MMA and last competed at an M-1 Global event in 2010, losing via unanimous decision." MMA News) He has reportedly scuffled with the police, which he did time for, and "has been convicted twice" - the other time "for evading military service" in Belarus. (Nasha Niva) At an office of the Russian CDEK express delivery service in Mozyr, on April 2, he mailed a trunk lid from a car to Ulyanovsk, Russia.

From there, things are disputed.  Kolosei says he had remained in Belarus for the last 2 years, and has never joined anyone's military.  Acquaintances say he's been in Mozyr "throughout the war, he is regularly seen at work, on the way to kindergarten, on walks with his six-year-old son," and "he has been working as an engineer at the Mozyr Oil Refinery for about five years." (Zeralko) He was apparently seen on a store's security camera in Mozyr on March 25, in between supposed crimes in Bucha. (SK on Instagram) He sold a car trunk lid online to a guy in Ulyanovsk (not clear why - it was badly damaged), shipped it April 2 when many Russian soldiers were also there shipping goods. The next day, he was accused of hideous war crimes had had no connection to. 

In contrast, Venediktova and company say - or suggest - that Kolosei joined the Russian national guard at some point, attained some unknown rank, and came to command "the unit of the Administration of the Federal Service of the National Guard of the Russian Federation Ulyanovsk region." They found - or assumed - that he led this force in Ukraine, abused locals in Bucha, stole a trunk lid (presumably a nice and intact one), returned to his hometown in Mozyr, and mailed that trunk lid to his new hometown in Ulyanovsk. They might say he was now making up lame excuses and fake video evidence, if they were saying anything at all. 

If I were more into the who's-who and how you check (anyone else?) I could check if "the commander of the unit of the Administration of the Federal Service of the National Guard of the Russian Federation Ulyanovsk region" is even specific enough to determine who commands it. And can we check if that unit was even in Ukraine, let alone anywhere near Bucha? If only Russian or Belarusian records are available, it will be fair game in some minds to assume they're fake, and so the draft dodging Belarusian MMA fighter really was a secret top Russian general or whatever.

A Circular Investigation Gets Twisted

How all of this was it decided isn't clearly explained - it's an active investigation, after all. Sources and methods need protected. But cited reasons are:

* Witnesses recognized Kolosei's face from crimes in Bucha, with at least two witnesses to two events having done so. 

A fungible "memory" of Kolosei's face is no basis to assume a secret military career in Russia that involved a brutal and totally unproven tour in Ukraine. Eyewitness evidence is notoriously unreliable, and subject to leading. For example, if a victim sees a face presented as a soldier already suspected of war crimes like, perhaps, the one you saw ... they might trick themselves into remembering just that face. Then they could trick themselves into being 100% certain of it, especially if they had prosecutors encouraging them. 

* An OSINT investigation was also cited as helpful. 

PG statement: "The identity of the Rosguard serviceman who killed people in the city of Bucha was established thanks to the measures taken by prosecutors and the help of journalists "Investigation-info"". Venediktova: "Special thanks again "Investigation-info" («Слідство-інфо») who helped the investigation." 

A separate activist group in Belarus - "the monitoring group of the Hajun Project" - also seems central, but went unmentioned here. We'll start with that below.  

It seems none of the OSINT work turned up anything to explain how Mr. Kolosei would be fighting in Ukraine. But that was already decided, based on the unexplained evidence. The lack of supporting evidence was no big issue. They already had enough, be it zero or a lot. 

1) Doxxed For Shipping Near Soldiers

First came the video footage from a shipping office in Belarus, and a list of names somehow obtained by the Belarusian anti-government activists of Hajun Project. These were published on their site Motolko-Help on April 3 - as it so happens, just as news of the Bucha massacre was spreading. Following a roughly one-day investigation into shipping records and 3 hours of video footage from the day before, they revealed their bombshell findings - heavy packages were sent to Russia, and they could name names. 

"Yesterday, April 3, the Hajun Project published a 3-hour recording from an online camera of the CDEK delivery service in Mazyr (Belarus), through which soldiers of the Russian Armed Forces send, among others, things stolen from Ukrainian citizens.

Now the monitoring group of the Hajun Project has received an impressive set of personal data on criminals, who, according to the authors of the project, should be held responsible for stealing and killing people in Ukraine."

Just on April 2, "more than 2 tons" of various goods were sent to Russia from this office, they wrote, "a significant part of which is stolen." It's not clear how they decided which items were stolen, but it seems the criteria was the weight of the package. They had that data somehow, and singled out every package over 50kg that was sent by a "soldier." The item sent from Mozyr are mostly tools, spare parts, clothes, TVs, an air conditioner ... No one was such a thief as to send 100kg of stolen bricks, but these are useful items, possibly high end. They're partly or totally stolen, for all I know, and entirely innocent for all the Hajun Project knows. Nonetheless: 

"The project published the names, phone numbers, and parcel contents of those soldiers who sent parcels of 50-450 kilograms to Russia. We publish this data unchanged" so the general public can help to "hold accountable" these "criminals, who, according to the authors of the project, should be held responsible for stealing and killing people in Ukraine." 

16 names, phone numbers or phone numbers of relatives or wives are then provided. None of the entries includes a military rank or even a specifically military address the package was sent to, but the video shows most of the customers were uniformed soldiers. And the one singled out for naming by the general prosecutor's office ... is NOT even one of those. But he got listed anyway: "Kolotsei, Sergey Aleksandrovich," who sent a 90 kg. trunk lid to Ulyanovsk. A relative's personal phone number was included. 

The looting story and this list of suspects was widely circulated (e.g. Kyiv Independent), and it had an effect: "[Kolosei] also reports that his social media accounts have been hacked and his family has received numerous threats." (Unian) SK on Instagram: "To date, my page in VKontakte has been hacked! I and my loved ones are being threatened!!! Please stop!!! And before you draw any conclusions about anyone, first make sure the information is correct!!!" 

"I hope no one has to face what I had to face," he said. But others on that list who actually were Russian soldiers have likely experienced the same, or possibly worse, for no actual and certain wrongdoing - just because they shipped something that might have been stolen, and some hacks with an agenda decided to dox them all as murderers.

Security video from the CDEK office was included with the article (direct Youtube posting). It's 3 hours and 19 minutes long. The camera or its titles are upside down, dated for a Saturday in 1970. At 1:00:40 Mr. Kolosei first enters the office (video time 3:14:20). In a dark jacket, he can be seen noticing the crowded situation ahead of him in line, and briefly chatting with a soldier at the door, by gestures, about just that. He goes ahead to the desk and asks a question, allowing a clear view of his face. 

He then leaves, and comes back 5 minutes later with his awkward package (1:05:45), and gestures to the desk, asking if he can cut back in. Instead, he squeezes into line with his awkward package and waits. 12 minutes later he's got the package sent, receipt in pocket, and he leaves the shop, presumably to go back home. He does not pass on any commands or even chat with the soldiers on his way out.

But he sent an item over 50kg to Russia, and he was a "soldier," as the Hajun Project assumed, and so he "should be held responsible for stealing and killing people in Ukraine." 

2) "Identified" From the Doxxing

Threats, harassment or worse could start whenever. But for legal proceedings, the Hajun Project suggests that first someone should implicate these soldiers in a specific crime. And it seems that happened, at least with Mr. Kolosei. 

This video appeared just as the Bucha Massacre was first making news April 2-4. Quite likely some witnesses to crimes there, or people claiming to be witnesses, also saw this video, and the man NOT in uniform stood out. They apparently filed at least two reports attached to that face, and that must have gotten back to Ukraine's prosecutors. It might have looked impressive; "this soldier seems especially involved, and he doesn't even need to wear the uniform. He must be high level there in, let's see ... Ulyanovsk."

But they had to match that face to a name, and there were 16 named "soldiers" with described packages to pick from. His package was pretty unique, likely the trunk lid listed. That would likely make him Mr. Kolosei, and a quick internet search could confirm that. But maybe this seemed beyond the capabilities of the prosecutor general's office, or just extra risky. So naturally they needed some help, or someone to take the blame if the project failed. 

They found "Investigation-info" «Слідство-інфо». This seemingly well-connected outfit explained their role in the Kolosei case with an article: The Belarusian suspected in the shooting of four hostages in Bucha: what we know about him and an included video called Bucha Executioner: Russian military suspect in murder of four Ukrainian civilians. Note the blacked-out eyes here, where the whole point is revealing Kolosei's identity. Is that just to make him look more suspicious? Or is that a more ominous signal?

As the video host, Dmitry Replyanchuk, explains, it was very important to find the actual perpetrator of "such a cynical murder of unarmed Ukrainians" and so "our team also joined the investigation into this war crime." Of course, pursuing false leads can only hamper such efforts. 

As Replyanchuk says, Kolosei was caught on video when "the occupiers and looters returned to Belarus after fleeing Kyiv and sent the looted property to their relatives in Russia." From that video capture, "Witnesses recognized the face of Sergei Kolosei in this video." and so "according to the official investigation, Sergei Kolosei commanded one of the units of the Russian occupiers" and "police claim Kolosei himself shot dead four men in this photo." 

In a comment beneath the video, "Investigation-Info" first questioned Kolosei's denials: "And how do you know that he is not a soldier? Because he said so in an interview?" Technically, that's a fair question, but later, when pressed on the point ("it is wrong to hang such a sin on an innocent person") they explained:

"We completely agree with you that the situation needs further investigation. Our task as journalists was to identify the person in the screenshot. We did it well. Kolosei confirmed that it was him in the video from the mail. ..." It was an extremely easy task. It's being done or done well was never an issue. The point may have been to have Investigation-info doing it, not the prosecutors. 

"... In our article, we refer to the official investigation and the prosecutor's office in the case of the murder. Victims and witnesses claim that Kolsei committed the crimes." And wouldn't that be troubling if witnesses were blaming people who couldn't possibly be guilty? And if professional state prosecutors aggressively used that evidence anyway? 

The reply concluded: "Of course, we will not leave this situation to chance and will investigate further." I asked on Twitter if they had learned anything yet, but I didn't get a reply yet. 

Conclusion

As Dmitry Replyanchuk said in the "Investigation-Info" video, "every criminal has a name, a military rank, and most importantly - a face." Ok this one doesn't have a rank anyone's been able to find, but still, his team correlated a face and a name and "criminal" was already alleged. 

Venediktova had to offer "Special thanks again "Investigation-info", who helped the investigation." But it wasn't complete yet; "we are testing him for involvement in other murders in Buchy as well." Memories might be jogged, and she encouraged that: "!! ️If you recognize this Russian civil servant and have evidence of his involvement in other atrocities - send evidence to our only hub https://warcrimes.gov.ua/ or contact the Kyiv Regional Prosecutor's Office," with phone numbers following.  

They might have taken 50 tips by people who say he's the one behind other crimes, even swearing that they see his face in their dreams every night ... But so far, no one can rebut his denials or alibi, and the camera can only see him hanging around in Mozyr for this whole time. Kolosei still seems to be unchallenged winner in this fight Ukraine picked with him - a far bigger victory than his MMA career every brought, and he hardly had to move. He just had to exist, notice, and react: "Are you crazy? ... the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office should blame everyone who sends parcels to Russia." 

Some observations regarding Ukraine's investigation:

* Again, we have affirmation that eyewitness evidence is often unreliable. It can be deliberately dishonest, and it can be led to any conclusion, especially by unscrupulous prosecutors. It doesn't bode well for the investigative process under DG Venediktova that their witnesses clearly identify people who were never near Bucha. 

* Everyone else implicated in such a process - even the ones that really are soldiers who served in Ukraine - might also be wrongly blamed. There is a solid reason for skepticism here. 

* Ukrainian authorities may be short on solid leads that point to Russia, even among actual Russian servicemen doxed just for being at that postal office, or just for being in Bucha, like the one who supposedly spray-painted his own instagram handle at an occupied house, and no one thought to spray over it. 

* Ukrainian authorities could be sitting a litany of leads pointing to their own forces, but we wouldn't hear about that. More likely, a litany of such leads exists, but was never even reported to them.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Some Horrors "Russian Troops Left in Bucha" - Burned Bodies

May 15, 2022

(rough, incomplete)

Summarizing points making the rounds in early April, KT "Special Intelligence Operation" would say on Twitter that in Bucha, "Putin's troops massacred hundreds of civilians and raped many women before many were burned in attempt to hide evidence." 

There were dozens of bodies famously left rotting in the streets, maybe with less interest in hiding the evidence. But still... burnies were burnt, though not really as a major theme of the Bucha Massacre. Only two scenes with 8 bodies are really noted, and at least one other not seen. But these are of interest, all considered below with some related episodes, details and issues surrounding the brutality and the reality of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

A Charred Family 

Perhaps the most shocking single image out of the Bucha - shown here in full detail but small size (can be expanded as necessary) - is this view of six bodies piled next to rubbish and badly burned. Discovered later than some bodies, only on April 4, a family of 4 was reportedly included in this pile, including a young child (whose small legs are visible). Incendiary photographs of this scene are widely shared, blurred and not, to expose Russia's brutality. Absent photos, the scene was reported in a widely read AP dispatch (via ABC News). (note: a stray boot is included. I don't suppose that's the kind Russian soldiers wear? There shouldn't be many of them to kill in this area then, but it's an issue in general, as we'll see.)

NPR cites Dymtro Andriv, a Ukrainian National Police spokesperson, saying of these bodies: "We know they were killed by gunfire, because there are many bullet wounds. Then somebody tried to hide this crime by burning the bodies." (NPR) Because of what Andriv said, we should wonder if maybe they didn't die from shooting. They in fact appear more torn up, some in pieces or missing pieces, as if by a moderate explosion - if so, they may be partly burned in that blast, and were presumably peppered with bullet-like shrapnel ("many bullet wounds"). A family of four would die like that, most likely, from being inside a vehicle, as if trying to flee, when it was hit by an explosive shell. 

The burning here seems recent, not exposed to much rain or weathering - probably in April, maybe at the end of March. That burning in turn has solidified some rigor mortis positions, which suggests they were burned while somewhat stiff, or less than 48 hours after death. That is, they probably died in April, after Kiev ran the entire city, or maybe in the transitional days before that, and almost certainly well after they had control of the exact area in question... 

The site of this pile was geolocated to Bucha's southeastern edge, which Ukraine forces had perhaps held for over a week before the last Russians left the city's northwest on the 30th  (March 19 approximate lines traced at right) Now who would want to hide shelling deaths here dating from liberation time and call them Russian shooting deaths? That's probably who burned the bodies. 

In Maxar satellite imagery (low-res preview at right, with control areas & notes added), a massive fire was seen on 3/21 at the SE corner of the city  (see my notes on Maxar's imagery). That's an area filled with truck yards and such at a "back entrance" to Bucha we've seen very little of, including a bridge that may have stayed passable the whole time. That smoke could be from an attack, or it would be a huge evidence-elimination fire. But we can see who would be capable of such fires in this area at this time - as these poor folks were charred to anonymity, by people who remembered to say the 4 had been a family.

A Fire in Mortar Alley

Next in brief: an unseen burning of bodies. Perhaps the first deadly incidents in Mortar alley on Yablunska street came, reportedly, on March 5 and/or March 6. Just as Russian snipers to the northwest allegedly started gunning people down here, what we actually see is shelling from the Ukrainian-controlled southeast that hit at least two spots, including a tree, which it completely severed. A van was set ablaze across the street from the tree, invisible here behind the smoke from its spilled and burning fuel. (Picture source: CNN) These 2+ artillery strikes killed 6 with bodies visible on the street, one maybe having been in a car, along with perhaps another person less visible, and it's said 4 more bodies were inside that van = at least 10 or 11 total killed in that mini-massacre (see mortar alley post). Being a no-man's land, these bodies were left to rot for nearly a month before removal on March 3 and 4. At least one had its hip torn open and chewed away by feral dogs in the meantime. 

"Bucha Civilians"

A second known scene of charred bodies was first shared by Mykhailo Fedorov, Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine and Ukraine's "Minister of Digital Transformation." Here on Twitter he transformed some stuff, as we'll see, saying: "We continue to find out the horrors Russian troops left in Bucha. USA, give Ukraine a chance to stop Russian aggression. Military support we need the most: heavy artillery (152mm; 155mm), armored vehicles, tanks, military trucks, long-range anti-aircraft systems."

Shown, clockwise from top left: a scene with 8 executed men of 13 total, killed sometime between 3/20 and 3/28, I estimate (whereas Kiev forces took control there by 3/24) - 5 men executed, I estimate, late on April 2 (see here - this is 2+ days after Russia left and hours after Kiev began its clearance operation against collaborators) - the column of tanks and trucks famously obliterated at Vokzalna street on the 27th, with the weapons Ukraine already had but was using up fast - finally, boxed in red, the charred corpses of two men in a wet slime around some old railroad tracks. Here is that photo alone. Fullest size seem unnecessary, but it can be expanded in a new tab if you like.

This disgusting photo is not widely used, but sometimes the more extreme anti-Russian commentators use it for the shock value: Censor.net - but mainly by even more extreme Ukrainian politicinas - Emine Dzheppar, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, because "The world must know the real face of #Russia." 

It's also not the clearest photograph to illustrate the Bucha Massacre. Anyone who took the photo would at least know it wasn't quite in Bucha. They might note the shelling damage to that fence. But no professional journalist gave us this photo: a blurred posting at Wikipedia/Wikimedia cites for original source: twitter of Ministry of Digital Development of Ukraine Mykhailo Fedorov. For some reason, the file was titled "Bucha civilians massacred by Russian soldiers, c. April 2022 - 01.jpg"

Issues: both look like fighting age males, although most massacre victims were - Footwear and most clothing has been removed, usually - some remaining scraps of clothing are military olive drab color - the deliberate charring may be to hide the victims' identity, like that they were Russian soldiers. In fact ... 

At least 4 killed soldiers are shown in a February 27 video posted by Ukrainian Pravda:  "Battle of Irpen: a column of Russian soldiers was shot." A black-and-red flag of the fascist Right Sector has been erected over the scene. Unique details can be geolocated to the south end of "Giraffe mall" in northern Irpin, just a bit south of the bridge from Bucha. The mall and this building across the street are both burning and billowing smoke.

Some graphic views, from a Telegram group message, via Val on Twitter - center image here shows the two on the tracks before they were stripped down. Val followed this discussion, and says the victors "got 2 names (not Chechens) and called families to gloat."


Another video shows these two bodies, stripped of useful items, laid on the train tracks a certain way, described wrongly as members of Ramzan Kadyrov's Chechen forces. Note the damaged fence missing a panel, compared to the damaged panel seen with the burned bodies. 


A Yan Boechat photo for Voice of America showed this scene, accurately captioned: "The bodies of two dead Russian soldiers lays in the no man's land between the towns of Irpin and Bucha, where Russian and Ukrainian troops had been fighting for more than a week. Irpin, Ukraine, March 12, 2022." See the fence panel used to cover the bodies. A plastic tarp helps, weighted with rocks, a "jack" roadblock that remains later in the muck. See the one leg uncovered here in particular seems chewed into later. All those stray dogs will do that. Ukrainian forces ran this area fine, but chose to leave those bodies for 14 days at this point.


Side-notes on the above photo: Giraffe mall is destroyed - heavy smoke in the distance, apparently in southern Bucha - in the background, people are walking south with white armbands, probably crossing over from Bucha, and using the white as a universal sign of peaceful intent. Most or all people crossing this bridge in March - all on foot as it stays blocked to vehicles - wear such armbands. And so far, they were made to walk past these decaying bodies.

Sometime after that March 12 image, the coverings were removed, wood and fuel were added, and the bodies were burned moderately, then left to decay another 19+ days before they were passed off in April as Bucha massacre victims. So this "horror Russian troops left in Bucha" - as the well-funded minister Fedorov called it - is actually a horror Ukrainian troops left in Irpin.  As Val noted, "Fedorov (one of 500 Zelensky "digital advisors") lies."  

This was actually one of those happy spots where the swift Russian offensive to encircle Kiev was finally and drastically halted a bit short. At least once on the 25th and again on the 27th of February, decisive attacks on Russian forces created some handy roadblocks to form a line at Bucha and Irpin. In fact, this seems to be a forward part of the massive column attacked the same day in Bucha - likely headed for this same crossing to Irpin, it seems they had changed their minds and were returning north when they were struck, destroying about a dozen vehicles and just as many civilian homes. How many civilians were killed? Officially, none. But here I show just at one intact house, two men were found dead, though maybe not killed by the shelling. All told it must be dozens. Probably all of them were passed off as killed by the Russians, mainly by shooting. This Vokzalna attack will need its own post.  

The Ukrainian Pravda / Right Sector video shows serious collateral damage here in Irpin too - at least two civilian cars that people had been driving are now burned out, and the Giraffe mall too is damaged and burning, besides at least the building across the street.

Note how one video cited above also shows a Russian armored vehicle marked V is driven away, by Ukrainians, off to the south for possible use (for example, in false-flag events over the coming weeks). 


That footage starts south of the scene at the tracks with possible Right Sector or allies celebrating a victory. To establish the area, note the billboard and the bulldozer. A France 24 video report around March 10 is from the same scene with the bulldozer, "where Russian forces are advancing." Another France 24 video of 3/24 has a Ukrainian fighter explain the graffiti on the bulldozer's shovel says "welcome to Hell." He then throws a bottle of champagne at a stray dog, narrowly missing it. Alcohol had been banned under martial law, but this was just being lifted then.

Strewn with Bodies

Two days before that incident in Irpin on February 25, to the north and east, a bit outside Bucha city limits, the 4-lane E373 highway to Kiev was severed - the bridge over Irpin river was blown out by Ukrainian artillery, seemingly just as a column of Russian vehicles was trying to cross. Some turned back then, only to be shelled along with some civilian traffic. For example, one truck headed NW away from the bridge was struck at the railroad tracks north of the CITY grocery store, while at least 3 cars going back the same way were also hit to varying degrees. 


Ukrainian sources report a Russian officer was killed at the bridge, and make no mention of civilian casualties. (Kyiv Depo) No civilian bodies are seen in later images from April - anyone injured or killed was already removed from the site sometime before that. 

Closer to the bridge are more Russian military vehicles, at least 2 police trucks  intact, then at least 4 trucks (no tanks) twisted and scorched. At least six bodies of Russian soldiers were left visible around the vehicles (at least 3 in the photo at right), most of them charred, left to rot and maybe to feed the miserable stray dogs.  

Prof. Marcello Ferrada de Noli tweeted a Washington Post story header of bodies strewn in Bucha by the Russians ... with just one body clearly visible, and it was a Russian soldier left by the Ukrainians, as they even note. That and other bodies had been there for 37 days already, by this photo of April 3. This one doesn't seem fit for consumption, as dogs look timidly for food only "near" the corpse. 

I had somehow thought it was the same body deliberately lit up and burned after this image, but it's well ahead of that we see a yellow panel hanging across the guardrail. A dark patch right next to that is seen better in a video from the "clearance operation" around April 2 - probably burned in the attack.


(seen better in passing - still can't tell if that round black object might be his or someone else's head, just a helmet, or other)


Going Afield, Then Concluding

Another scene, out of context, had seemed possibly related to Bucha, and helped inspire this article. It turns out it wasn't from the same city at all, but it still seems worth including to illustrate the mentality of Ukraine's front line fighters. Some images showed a killed Russian soldier chained to Ukrainian barricade and deliberately burned on that barricade (see scorching continue onto the metal), or sort of burned on a cross, if not exactly a crucifixion or a cross burning - then left hopefully for the Russians to see. 


"Countertroll" OSINT activist "doppelot" did/compiled some good geolocation work to on Twitter to dispel "Russian propaganda" over this scene. Folks were spreading incendiary rumors that the soldier was chained there alive, tortured and then burned alive. To me as well that doesn't make much sense - this was almost certainly post-mortem mutilation, but the idea had some traction. The people arranging the scene were clearly sick, doing this openly, dubbing the victim "Valera" and joking that he "opened beach season in Kharkiv." "Doppelot" didn't endorse or comment on that, except to note with approval hat the body was later taken back off the barricade. Propaganda tackled, Ukraine stood with, and all was good. 

Another source - Military Informant on Telegram - highlights the underappreciated criminality of this spectacle and those like it including, also near Kharkiv, arranging the corpses of Russian soldiers mockingly into a Z shape. This cites a "report of the Dutch edition "HNL" from Kharkov" which I didn't bother digging up yet, and notes "It is not known how these soldiers died - in battle, or were the next victims of execution after being taken prisoner, however, as Dutch journalists say, both of these incidents with bodies can be considered a war crime."

So that's criminal, and really pretty sick, and it was done openly. Now up in Irpin and less openly ... we have two Russian service members deliberately charred as if for anonymity, left out to rot for over a month, then passed off by Fedorov as civilians in Bucha, murdered by the Russians. These two quite likely are listed among the few hundred massacre victims as unidentified civilian males, feeding into war crimes charges against Russia, and into the basis for increasing collective punishments leveled against Russia's people in general - including the widows and orphans of these killed soldiers. 

That's a much smarter and an even more evil way to leverage corpses than just burning them on a sort of cross. We heard the Russians were burning bodies to hide the clues, so it's only fair that Ukraine get the benefit of the any doubt that's raised. Right? 

Not to say there is a policy of including every burned body as a victim of the Russians, but it seems possible here - for these 2 anyway. Maybe the ones called soldiers too? At just 1-2 per destroyed vehicle, I estimate at least 50-75 whose bodies and bits had to be left behind like this, just between 4 attack areas on February 25-27, though presumably far fewer after that (a 4th area in city center hit 2/26 is covered here for now, although I had the Irpin attack wrongly dated 2/25). Even with none of these counted in, the likely dozens of civilians killed along Vokzalna on the 27th and some traffic fatalities on the 25th will be included. Compared to some 400 or so total massacre victims as reported, this might be a significant portion. Considering the rest are mainly killed by shelling from the southeast in no-man's land, and several executions, new shelling and tank-crushing deaths just about when Kiev force came back ... there isn't much of this "massacre in Russian-occupied Bucha" left to go around.