Like Bucha, Borodyanka is another town northwest of Kiev which the Russians seized in preparation for an assault on the capital. Like Bucha, it’s now been liberated by Ukrainian forces after the Russians withdrew to Belarus, eyeing a coming offensive in the east.
And like Bucha, it’s now giving up its secrets after a month of occupation.
Watch this drone footage of how it looks today. Note how the buildings that seem to have suffered the most damage, burned black in some cases and partially collapsed in others, are obviously multi-unit apartment buildings.
Ukraine's Defense Ministry published a video showing massive destructions in Borodyanka, a liberated town about 40 km northwest of Kyiv with a pre-war population of 13,000.
"They wanted to do the same with the whole of Ukraine.
But our army fought back," the ministry wrote. pic.twitter.com/ix0jasxXFx
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) April 6, 2022
Reporters are inside Borodyanka today to see the devastation firsthand. They’re not finding as many bodies lying out in the streets as they did in Bucha (although they are finding some), but there may be a reason for that. The Russian M.O. in Borodyanka seems to have favored killing en masse by bombing residential complexes rather than picking off civilians on the street one by one. ABC’s James Longman is there:
Borodyanka. Somehow it gets worse pic.twitter.com/talVJKn0Y8
— James Longman (@JamesAALongman) April 6, 2022
“The destruction in the centre of Borodyanka is the worst for its size I have seen in any of the towns around Kyiv, including Irpin and Bucha, which were much fought over,” wrote the BBC’s Ukraine war correspondent, Jeremy Bowen, during a visit to the town. Residents are telling him that the damage to apartment buildings was no accident, as those buildings were being targeted on the ground too. And when residents tried digging out survivors from the rubble, they were warned to stop — or else.
Dmytro’s wife Svetlana was trying to clear up his mother’s destroyed flat in the building next door, which was still standing. She said the Russians stopped attempts to rescue any survivors.
“They were all our neighbours”, she said. “Shortly after the attack, people nearby heard some voices, Russian soldiers stopped them digging. They threatened to shoot if they tried.”
“There are a lot of people left under the rubble,” confirmed another woman, Maria, who was busy sorting mirrors and pictures that could be salvaged and throwing the rest into a skip behind her apartment block. “My soul hurts. I knew all those people. We knew they were there from the first day, but they wouldn’t let us get them out.”…
The biggest bomb sites in Borodyanka could only have been hit by air strikes or ballistic missiles. The laws of war state civilians are protected and killing them is a crime unless they are involved with military action.
One man told Bowen he witnessed Russian tank columns firing at civilian homes. An Orthodox priest who lives in Borodyanka said he saw Russian snipers kill the drivers of two cars that were behind him on the road a month ago. More from CNN:
“We are gathering people who were shot by the Russians. Civilians who were tortured. We have been working for two days,” Hennadiy Avramenko, 45, said.
CNN watched as Avramenko and his colleague extracted the body of a 44-year-old Ukrainian from a car. He was shot through the heart while driving, with his car crashing into a ditch next to the road.
“Psychologically, it’s difficult,” Avramenko said. “The worst thing is that we’re not finding soldiers, just innocent people…
The volunteers pick up an additional two bodies in the space of an hour. One of them was the charred corpse of a person hit by an artillery round, the other an elderly man who was shot while riding his bicycle.
The air attacks on the apartment buildings appear to have been deliberate. The Russian air force has mostly used “dumb bombs” during the war instead of precision guided munitions for reasons that remain not fully clear, but one woman who was in Borodyanka during an air attack made it sound as though the damage couldn’t have been accidental. “We were sitting in the cellar,” she told the Times. “The plane flew very low. I counted three seconds and the bomb fell.” How likely is it that a low-flying Russian jet would have mistaken a target as large as an apartment building?
And what “military targets” were they supposedly after in a town as small (13,000) as Borodyanka, anyway? Russia will probably resort to its old excuse that they thought the Ukrainian military was using the building as a base, which is convenient since it allows them to attack any civilian target with impunity.
If this is what it’s like in small towns in the north, imagine the stories that have yet to come out from major cities in the south like Kherson, which has been occupied by the Russians from the beginning, and Mariupol.
There does seem to be a specific Russian rationale to some of the killings beyond terrorizing the locals and enjoying a bit of depraved fun. I’ve read multiple reports this week of Russian troops allowing men above a certain age to live. Men below that age were treated as potential threats, though, since they might conceivably be members of the Ukrainian military or have had military training. And in some cases those threats are being neutralized with extreme prejudice, no questions asked:
Three graves sit just opposite his apartment block. Each marked with a wooden plank and a religious icon attached. He wanted to give them whatever dignity he could. ‘But it’s too shallow,’ he says, almost apologetically. ‘I just wanted to protect them from the dogs.’ pic.twitter.com/Z3gl4JVVh0
— James Longman (@JamesAALongman) April 5, 2022
Russians asked for documentation when they got there. Anything in your papers that made them think you were a threat, and you were dead. He said they made the men strip off, looking for tattoos. Perhaps military tattoos. pic.twitter.com/6Gd5bVmr2d
— James Longman (@JamesAALongman) April 5, 2022
Here’s a taste of what Borodyanka residents are coming home to. The Russians being the Russians, apartments that are still somewhat intact have been ransacked.