In Ukraine, the Russians are turning rape into a daily weapon of war. In Boutcha, Match found irresistible evidence of one of these crimes.
She was 34 years old, a little girl of 5 years and unfortunately a grandmother who lived in Boutcha. Case No. 675 could be part of the tragedy of the bodies found after the departure of the 64th Motorized Rifle Brigade of the Russian Army, commanded by Azatbek Omurbekov, known as “the Butcher of Boutcha”. Two great reporters, one who had witnessed the discovery of the remains, the other who was shocked by the resulting snapshot, ordered herself to give Oksana her story back. So that no one can ever doubt the reality of this war crime.
Our full file on this tragedy:
Ukraine: Grave for Oksana
Ukraine: Oksana, 25, portrait of a war martyr
Ukraine – Christine Angot: “The logic of rape is always a logic of war”
On Thursday, April 7, around 3 p.m., Volodimir and his cousin Viacheslav walk onto Vokzalna Street, in Boutcha, northwest of Kiev. After slipping between the charred carcasses of Russian armored vehicles, they arrive at number 58. With a heavy heart, Volodimir pushes open the gate of his house. Cautiously moving forward, fearing mines, the two men inspect the property: everything has been ransacked, destroyed, looted by the occupying forces.
This is case number 675. The body is horribly mutilated. I force myself to film
Florent Marcie discovered the body
A tangle of clothes and miscellaneous objects clutters the rooms and hallways. Here and there, leftover food mixes with empty liquor bottles. On the kitchen wall, the ephemeris indicates the date of March 16. Volodimir, a fatalist, makes a decision. His villa was destroyed by a gang of shaggy necks, but at least he’s still standing. Behind the vegetable garden, the wasteland is littered with stripped ammunition crates and scattered casings. It was there, near a school, that the Russians had set up artillery positions from which they bombarded Irpin, the last city before Kiev.
Viacheslav retraces his steps and peeks into the barn. His gaze is drawn by two metallic reflections on the ground. He bends down and picks up two cartridge cases of 5.45 mm, the caliber of the Kalashnikov. Why did you fire the Kalashnikov twice in the shed? And if there was firing, why is there no impact on the walls?
Viacheslav is intrigued by another detail: bags of cement have been placed on the hatch that lead to a reduced room in the basement. He moves them, opens the hatch, without first discerning the shape that stands out in the dim light at the bottom of the ladder.
As he aims his phone light at the bottom of the hole, he sees the lifeless body of a naked woman, in a fur coat. Her eyes are open, her legs are bloodied, her skull is split. A third housing was found near the body. Obviously, the prisoner was executed with a Kalashnikov blowout to the head by a Russian soldier standing in an overhang. Volodimir and his cousin call the police. The extraction of the body is scheduled for the following day.
How could so many war crimes have been committed so close to Kiev for weeks without anyone knowing?
When the first testimonies of war crimes in Boutcha started to circulate, I was filming in Kharkov, 500 kilometers to the east. When I read the stories passed around by the media, I remained stunned. Not that the Russian army is incapable of committing war crimes – it has sufficiently demonstrated that in Chechnya – but because it usually takes a while before a soldier who has drifted into the darkness sinks into the darkness.
But Boutcha was only occupied for a “little” month. Every day, barely ten kilometers from the city, near the Irpin Bridge, the press from all over the world searched for the slightest testimony from civilians fleeing the fighting. How could so many war crimes have been committed so close to Kiev for weeks without anyone knowing?
Nine graves for as many Boutcha civilians shot randomly by Russian soldiers. A building like so many other…
Wanting to form my own opinion, I returned from Kharkov to settle in Boutcha. On the spot, it took me little time to confirm the reality of the crimes. With a photographer friend, we suggested a resident with bags to drive her home. Galina had not left Boutcha during the occupation. She lived in a ten-storey block. In the nearby field, she showed us newly dug makeshift graves. There were nine civilians from Boutcha who were randomly shot by Russian soldiers. A building like so many other…
Every day new bodies were discovered and I heard new stories of summary executions and torture.
Every day new bodies were discovered and I heard new stories of summary executions and torture. Not just in Boutcha. The scale and brutality of the crimes were truly staggering. Their stupidity too.
On the morning of April 8, I attended the extraction of the body with a handful of journalists at 58 Vokzalna Street. Just before the operation started, I entered the barn and walked to the edge of the hatch to film the crime scene . By framing the body, in the privacy of the seeker, I felt fear but also absolute certainty. Uncomfortably I force myself to film, convinced of the need to record what happened there.
There is an extreme symbolism in this vision of horror, something universal and eternal. All Boucha is there. The whole crime is there.
There is an extreme symbolism in this vision of horror, something universal and eternal. All Boucha is there. The whole crime is there. I then took some photos, because in this case a photo is more powerful than a filmed image. She immortalizes the moment.
To get the body out, a police officer wearing a mask and surgical gloves descends into the small room by the small ladder. Then he somehow passes a rope under the arms of the victim, which is then carefully lifted out. The naked body of the young stranger is then placed on the earthly ground in front of the barn,