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Story Publication logo April 5, 2022

Russian Retreat From Areas Around Kyiv Reveals ‘Pattern of Apparent War Crimes’


Ukraine refugees flee to Hungary

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As the world responds to apparent Russian atrocities in Ukraine, more evidence of the civilian toll is emerging near the city of Bucha. Special correspondent Simon Ostrovsky and videographer Yegor Troyanovsky report from the town of Borodyanka, where the destruction wrought by Russia is near-total.

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Judy Woodruff: The atrocities apparently committed by Russia in Ukraine echoed in the halls of the United Nations today, as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy issued a condemnation of the world body, and the U.N. Security Council in particular, where Russia sits as a permanent member.

Meantime, in Washington, White House officials said a new round of sanctions designed to further throttle Russia's Central Bank would be issued tomorrow, in the wake of the killings of Ukrainian civilians north of Kyiv.

But we begin again with special correspondent Simon Ostrovsky and videographer Yegor Troyanovsky, who traveled to the city of Borodyanka, near the city of Bucha, where the destruction wrought by Russia is near total.

And, again, a warning: You may find images in this report upsetting.

Simon Ostrovsky: Just 15 miles northwest of Bucha, the site of atrocities perpetrated during the Russian occupation, lies Borodyanka, or what's left of it.

Residents are only starting to grapple with the enormity of the destruction wrought by aerial bombardment on this small suburb of Kyiv.

Alyona Liman returned to her apartment block to salvage what little she can.

Alyona Liman, Borodyanka Resident (through translator): There were people in the basement of that building and people in the basement of that one. Some people were buried under the rubble. I don't know if they got out.

Simon Ostrovsky: I ask her how she's holding up.

Alyona Liman (through translator): What can I do? I have a small child. If I get upset, then she'll get upset.

Simon Ostrovsky: We're following around a group of police officers who have the grim task of going around town and collecting the dead bodies of people who were killed during the Russian occupation of this area during the fighting that took place here.

Most of them were killed in bombings or shellings, apparently, but at least one of the men we have seen appears to have been executed. He had his hands tied behind his back.

The Russian retreat from the areas around Kyiv has revealed the heavy toll civilians paid for Russia's attempt to capture the Ukrainian capital. A picture is emerging of a pattern of apparent war crimes that weren't limited to Bucha. This victim's body is badly bruised, suggesting a brutal beating. His hands are tied behind his back, and there's a bag over his head.

Vyacheslav Tsylyuryk, Borodyanka Police Chief (through translator): In the case of this body, he's tied up. The cause of death was either a gunshot wound or injury sustained by the body that he couldn't survive. We don't know for sure. After the coroner's investigation, we will identify the cause of death.

Simon Ostrovsky: Residents told us that Russian troops went from house to house checking documents and confiscating phones. Men were asked if they had any connection to the military.

Alyona Liman (through translator): They checked homes. The first thing they asked was, are there any military people? Are there weapons? If there were military people, they shot them. One guy had his ear cut off for looting. Others were simply shot.

We tried to hide from them, more or less, so as not to come across them.

Simon Ostrovsky: Today, in his first address to the U.N. Security Council, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy said Russian troops behaved in this way across the areas they occupied.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukrainian President (through translator): They deliberately shoot columns of civilians on the road trying to escape from hostilities. They even deliberately blow up shelters for civilians. Russia wants to turn Ukrainians into silent slaves.

Simon Ostrovsky: Russia, a permanent member of the 15-nation Council, struck back and claimed no civilian suffered any kind of violence in Bucha.

Vassily Nebenzia, Russian Ambassador to the United Nations (through translator): We came to you, to Ukraine, not to conquer land. We came to bring the long-awaited peace to the blood-soaked land of Donbass, not a truce, but a true lasting peace.

Simon Ostrovsky: World leaders have expressed horror over the alleged massacres, pledging to investigate.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke this morning before leaving for meetings in Brussels with allies.

Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State: What we have seen in Bucha is not the random act of a rogue unit. It's a deliberate campaign to kill, to torture, to rape, to commit atrocities.

Simon Ostrovsky: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also vowed her support.

Ursula von der Leyen, President, European Commission: These atrocities cannot and will not be left unanswered.

Simon Ostrovsky: To further punish Russia, the commission today proposed sweeping sanctions, including an import ban on Russian coal, the first European move to block Russia's energy industry.

But on calls to impose a total embargo on Russian oil and gas, E.U. leaders remain split. According to British intelligence, Ukrainians continue to retake territory in the north, pushing Russian soldiers away from Chernihiv, in the north of Kyiv. Officials say Russian forces will likely have to resupply before redeploying to the east, where they believe Russia is focusing on the Donbass region.

The U.N. says the conflict has displaced more than seven million people within Ukraine, while more than four million have fled the country.

Oksana Vasylieva, Refugee From Chernihiv (through translator): I saw with my own eyes how our homes were destroyed, how rockets and hard artillery flew.

Simon Ostrovsky: To evacuate civilians, Ukraine today said that new humanitarian corridors were agreed upon, including one from Mariupol. But, for the fifth day straight, a Red Cross team couldn't reach the besieged city.

Amid the horrors of war, some try to preserve a sense of normalcy. A Mariupol resident tends to her flowers outside her battered apartment block. She's asked why she plants them.

Woman (through translator): To lift my spirits. What else should I do now? Just lay down and wait? We already have somebody laying there waiting to be collected.

Simon Ostrovsky: With thousands still trapped in Mariupol facing shortages of food and water, the only thing they can do is wait.

For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Simon Ostrovsky in Borodyanka.


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