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War in Ukraine | Residents of Boutcha return after the departure of the “bastards”

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(Boutcha) Hanna Predko had fled Boutcha, bombarded then occupied for a month by Russian soldiers, accused of having committed abuses there. On Thursday, she returned home, “happy” that the Ukrainian army had “chased away these bastards”.

With her three children, she left the city after the first bombings on February 24. She took refuge in the west of the country, spared by the war.

His mother, Natalia Predko, 69, joined him there on March 11, taking advantage of an operation to evacuate civilians, while Boucha was occupied by soldiers from Moscow.

The sexagenarian left her husband there, who never wanted to leave home.

The fighting around the town never completely ceased and at the end of March, Russian troops withdrew from the town.

Dozens of dead civilians were discovered there last weekend, some of them with their hands tied behind their backs.


PHOTO RODRIGO ABD, ASSOCIATED PRESS

This woman spoke with journalists in front of her house in Boutcha on April 7.

“We are very happy that our armed forces succeeded in driving these bastards out,” exclaims Hanna.

“Now everyone knows about this place, unfortunately for a huge price,” adds the 31-year-old.

She came at the beginning of the afternoon with her mother in front of the town hall of Boutcha, the trunk of her car filled with food to give to residents.

Perched in the basket of a van, a municipal official has just put the Ukrainian flag back on the roof of the town hall, for the first time since the occupation of the city by soldiers from Moscow.

“The city is in ruins”

“I am very very happy to have come back and to see our national flag, after the liberation of our city by the Ukrainian army. Glory to Ukraine! Natalia exclaims, watching the blue and yellow flag flapping in the wind. She is also happy to have found her husband safe and sound.

Will they continue to live in Boutcha? For his daughter, it is obvious: “We plan to stay here”.

“Many of my friends live abroad, we were invited and there were possibilities to leave. But we decided to come back, even if the city is in ruins,” explains the young woman.

In a small square in front of the town hall, a distribution of food items is organized by young volunteers.

Several dozen inhabitants parade, mainly elderly people, covered as in the middle of winter despite the spring mildness. They set off again at a slow pace, pulling a basket on wheels or carrying plastic bags full of food.

Under the mild sun, Boris Biguik decided to take his bike to come to Boutcha to see the house of his son, a policeman in the region and absent when the city was taken.

Boris, 63, lives next door, in the adjoining town of Vorzel.

“The curfew ended today. So I decided to come and fix the gate of our son’s house because his neighbors said it was broken. The Russians stole everything from the house, broke the doors and windows,” he says.

“I was afraid to go inside because it could be trapped. We can expect anything from these “fascists”, we have seen them! “, assures the retiree, a former senior officer in the police.

“They looted everything”

In Vorzel, the soldiers were there too and stayed for a month, like in Boutcha.

The retired policeman, who normally lives in Kyiv, was in Vorzel with his wife in their second home to rest after an operation. Convalescing, “I couldn’t fight,” he explains.

Surprised by the shelling, they were unable to return to Kyiv and remained in Vorzel.

Boris says their neighbour’s son was killed one evening, “because Russians equipped with thermal imaging cameras threw grenades from drones at anyone who came outside”.

A week ago, when Russian soldiers withdrew from the area, “they took everything they could with them. They looted everything, their armored vehicles were overflowing with stolen things,” he said as he got back on his bike to leave Boutcha.

He didn’t have time to see a small convoy of big white 4x4s, blue UN logos, stop in front of the town hall.

Martin Griffiths, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, has just landed for a short visit.

In front of a mass grave dug by the Ukrainians, where bodies still appear half-buried, the British diplomat, black pants and t-shirt, is explained by a town hall official how civilians have been killed in recent weeks in Boutcha .


PHOTO RONALDO SCHEMIDT, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Aerial view of the Saint-Andrew de Boutcha church where a mass grave was dug.

“The world is already deeply shocked” by the abuses committed, particularly in Boutcha, said Martin Griffiths: “The next step is to conduct an investigation”.

After an hour there, the UN convoy left town.

In front of the grave, adjoining a white church with golden domes, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevtchouk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, says a prayer and meditates.

“We saw the genocide of the Ukrainian people here,” he told AFP.

“We pray because the most important judge is Almighty God, but justice must be served even here. Otherwise, if we do not condemn such a crime, this crime will be repeated”.

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