Feet tied and bullet to the head: A killing in Ukraine's Bucha

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SENSITIVE MATERIAL. THIS IMAGE MAY OFFEND OR DISTURB The body of a man, with his feet tied up, who according by local police was killed by Russian soldiers, lies on the ground, amid Russia's invasion on Ukraine, in Bucha, Kyiv region, Ukraine, April 6, 2022. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

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BUCHA, Ukraine, April 6 (Reuters) - A rope tied around his feet and a charred hole in his forehead, a dead man lies in scrub by a railroad track on the outskirts of the Ukrainian town of Bucha.

The haunting figure, his flesh a sallow yellow as if a waxwork, lies surrounded by brown fallen leaves. Just meters (yards) away, the corpse of another victim lies in the undergrowth.

"Don't touch the body. It may be mined," said a policeman, who pointed out the spot where the corpse lay but asked not to be identified by name.

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Bucha, 37 km (23 miles) northwest of Kyiv, was occupied by Russian troops for more than a month following the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

When the Russian forces pulled back last week, they left behind civilian dead on Bucha's streets, inside buildings and buried in shallow graves.

Local officials say more than 300 people were killed by Russian forces in Bucha alone, and around 50 of them were executed.

The policeman said residents of Bucha had buried another five corpses under an unmarked earth mound that Reuters passed nearby. Reuters could not immediately verify his account.

Since reaching Bucha on Sunday, Reuters has witnessed the remains of at least five victims who were shot through the head. One had his hands tied behind his back. read more

The slain man Reuters saw on Wednesday, wearing blue jeans and a black winter jacket, lay 100 meters from a small cemetery. Reuters was unable to identify the man or determine who had killed him.

Witnesses in the town - which has been badly shelled; its facades gouged and blackened - have recounted details of what they said were several other extra-judicial killings at the hands of Russians. Reuters has been unable to verify their accounts independently.

Ukraine's government has accused Russia of genocide and war crimes. The Kremlin dismisses the allegations as propaganda and says its forces are not targeting civilians.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the Security Council on Tuesday that accusations of abuse were lies. He said that while Bucha was under Russian control "not a single civilian suffered from any kind of violence."

On Sunday, Russia's defence ministry issued a statement saying that all photographs and videos published by the Ukrainian authorities alleging "crimes" by Russian troops in Bucha were a "provocation."

CHECHEN SOLDIER

In another incident nearby, through a small wood, builder Eduard Karpenko recounted how he saw one of his neighbours marched off to be shot by a Russian soldier.

He said the victim, Oleksandr Yeremich, was a 43-year-old member of the Territorial Defense Forces, the military reserves of the Ukrainian armed forces. Karpenko showed Reuters a copy of the man's passport but the news agency was unable to verify independently other details of his account.

Karpenko said the man was marched away from near his home by a soldier that two watching Russian troops said came from Chechnya, a region in southern Russia that has deployed forces to Ukraine to support Russia.

The soldier marched the man out of sight, to the end of a wooden fence flanking the wood, and then four shots rang out, Karpenko said.

"They led him to the end of the gate and shot him, with the last shot to the head," Karpenko said, holding his arms aloft as if being marched away.

Two men alongside Karpenko, who declined to be identified, confirmed they also saw Yeremich led away and heard the shots.

Karpenko said he and the two men had waited as ordered by the Russian soldiers until nightfall before venturing out to recover the body.

"We covered him in a blanket, then with another, and dragged him to the grave. There was so much blood," said Karpenko.

He said the body was buried nearby in a garden, the spot marked with a long wooden stake and a metal frame shaped like a coffin, which was seen by Reuters.

Karpenko and the two other men dangled a baseball cap on a branch at the site where they said the shooting took place.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a Putin ally, said in a statement on Feb. 26 that Chechen forces would be fighting in Ukraine as part of Russia's "special military operation" to demilitarize the country. Reuters was unable to determine if they operated in Bucha.

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additional reporting by Ivan Lubysh-Kirdey and Alkis Konstantinidis, editing by Silvia Aloisi, Alexandra Hudson

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