Satellites are providing a vital glimpse into the horrors of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with new images appearing to show mass graves in the town of Bucha where a bloody massacre of civilians reportedly occurred last month.
Crucially, the Maxar Technology satellite images also help to dispel Russian disinformation that this brutal incident was “staged.”
Mounting evidence has suggested that retreating Russian soldiers carried out numerous atrocities through Bucha, a suburb of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, slaughtering hundreds of civilians and leaving their bodies strewn across the war-torn streets.
“They shot everyone they saw,” a survivor told reporters from the New York Times.
“We believe that more than 300 civilians died,” Vitaly Klitschko, former heavyweight championship boxer and mayor of Kyiv who went to Bucha on Sunday, April 3, told AFP. “This is not a war, it is a genocide, a genocide of the Ukrainian population.”
The massacre occurred at some point during March 2022, but evidence of the incident only emerged in early April after Russian forces withdrew from the city and Ukrainian forces entered.
Shockingly, a Maxar satellite image from March 31 appears to show a mass grave with a ~14-meter (~45-foot) long trench near the grounds of the Church of St. Andrew and Pyervozvannoho All Saints in Bucha. Previous images, which are of poorer quality, suggest that initial excavations of the grave may have been taking place as early as March 10.
The Russian Ministry of Defense has denied responsibility for the civilian killings in Bucha, with some even claiming many of the images and videos of the carnage had been "staged" with “fake dead bodies” after the Russian army left the town. However, the satellite images from Maxar Technology help to refute this false claim.
In an image taken on March 19, when Russian forces still occupied the town, bodies can be seen laying on the streets. An investigation from the New York Times shows the bodies were still lying in the same places in video footage filmed by a local council member on April 1. Similar comparisons can be seen in Maxar satellite images taken on March 21 and a video uploaded to Instagram on April 2.
Much of the events of Bucha are still unfolding, and there remain many unknowns. However, it’s clear this event has outraged leaders in North America and Europe. The US has even cited the recent events in Bucha as further evidence that Russia is guilty of war crimes in Ukraine.
“You may remember I got criticized for calling Putin a war criminal. Well, the truth of the matter – you saw what happened in Bucha. This warrants him – he is a war criminal,” US President Joe Biden said on April 4.
“We have to gather the information, we have to continue to provide Ukraine with the weapons they need to continue the fight, and we have to get all the detail so this can be an actual — have a wartime trial [sic].”
“This guy is brutal. And what’s happening in Bucha is outrageous,” Biden added.