GUEST BLOG—By Erika Kinetz, Oleksandr Stashevskyl and Vasilisa Stephanenko, Reporters, The Associated Press—It was a cold, gray morning, March 4 in Bucha, Ukraine. Crows cawed. By nightfall, at least nine men would walk to their deaths at 144 Yablunska street, a building complex that Russians turned into a headquarters and the nerve center of violence that would shock the world.
In this image, above, from March 4, 2022, surveillance video provided by the Ukrainian government, Russian troops lead nine men at gunpoint to their headquarters on Yablunska Street in Bucha, where they would be tortured and executed.
The men were picked up as part of what Russian soldiers called “zachistka” – cleansing.
The soldiers hunted people on lists prepared by their intelligence services and went door to door to identify and neutralize potential threats. Later, when all the bodies were found strewn along the streets and packed in hasty graves, it would be easy to think the carnage was random.
Residents asking how this happened would be told to make their peace, because some questions just don’t have answers. Yet there was a method to the violence. What happened that day in Bucha was what Russian soldiers on intercepted phone conversations called “zachistka” — cleansing.
The Russians hunted people on lists prepared by their intelligence services and went door to door to identify potential threats. Those who didn’t pass this filtration, including volunteer fighters and civilians suspected of assisting Ukrainian troops, were tortured and executed, surveillance video, audio intercepts and interviews show.
The Associated Press and the PBS series “Frontline” obtained surveillance camera footage from Bucha that shows, for the first time, what a cleansing operation in Ukraine looks like. This was organized brutality that would be repeated at scale in Russian-occupied territories across Ukraine — a strategy to neutralize resistance and terrorize locals into submission that Russian troops have used in past conflicts, notably Chechnya.
Click here for the remainder of the AP/Frontline article.