Bodies of dead Russian soldiers were abandoned near Kyiv
A Ukrainian military force was soon on the scene in a white protective suit, carefully removing the soil above.
They uncovered a man’s body, his face down and his legs awkwardly bent beneath him. It was clear from his uniform that he was a Russian soldier.
Even weeks after they failed to capture Ukraine’s capital, the remains of Russian soldiers are still being discovered in and around the villages they passed or captured near the capital, Kyiv. But Ukraine says Russia shows little interest in getting them back.
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From the grave in the forest, the body was exhumed on a refrigerated train on the outskirts of Kyiv that now operates as a mobile morgue for the Russian dead.
The white plastic sacks are marked with numbers instead of names and there were at least 137 piles inside the two carts on the day we visited.
Ukrainians attempt to identify the dead: on the body just brought in, the forensic team handed out two bank cards, as well as badges for a Russian motorized rifle brigade.
“At least this one has a chance to get home,” declared the man in charge, including a dirty piece of T-shirt printed with the logo of Russia’s military.
Moments later, I confirmed that the man I had just seen was a young, married soldier from Siberia. Next to his body bag, a black-and-white photo of him carefully pulled from his social media profile emerged from my phone.
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This pledge appears not to apply so much to Russia’s own troops.
Colonel Volodymyr Liamzin told the BBC: “The bodies we found suggest that they see people as cannon fodder.” “They don’t need their soldiers. They throw them here, retreat – and leave the body.”
Russia has a proud slogan: “We do not leave our own.” This is a large part of President Vladimir Putin’s alleged justification for invading Ukraine, where he falsely claimed that Russian-speakers need protection.
We don’t really know how the young soldier was released into the woods. The villagers of Zavalivka say that he was hiding from the gunfight in his basement most of the time – they believe he was wounded and lost as his unit was forced to retreat.
From what we have learned about Russian soldiers fighting around Kyiv, many were young and inexperienced. Chances are they were running under fire.
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“We did a swap,” says Colonel Liamzin, explaining that the Russian side provided a shortlist of the dead soldiers it wanted to return.
“We’re ready to give them all back, we want our own dead to come back too. We knock on every door, but there’s no response, no communication,” says the colonel.
Neither side is open about casualties in this war. We have spoken to several Ukrainian families who say that their own government has not been helpful in recovering the remains of Ukrainian soldiers from the battlefield.
A woman, who was told about her husband’s death by the men of her unit, said that she had been trying to get his body for almost three months.
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The delay in collecting the bodies is not unique to Russia.
But Russian dead are being discovered here all the time.
Just up the road from Zavalivka in Sitnyaki, the village elder told us that in the march at least 10 Russian soldiers were killed and left behind, perhaps even more.
His column was ambushed after he lost his way: locals removed and switched traffic signals.
The fight was fierce. What was once a roadside restaurant is now a pile of rubble, a small wall and a huge aquarium that somehow survived the attack.
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The leaflet in the ruins calls on Russian soldiers to surrender and save their lives and spare the blood of Ukrainian children.
Village elders say that he and others buried the Russians after the battle “for hygiene reasons”. When I look at the quirks, he says most are torn to pieces.
He wasn’t allowed to show us the graves: they build a crime scene until Colonel Liamzin’s team makes a round to visit the site and excavate. But the list of their excavations is already long.
A local sugar beet planter confirms that the Russians were killed on the side of the main road.
“Leaving a soldier, not burying him, is not humanity,” says Mikola, leaning on his spade. His own son is in the army of Ukraine.
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“My wife felt sorry for the Russians at first, but then we found out what they did here,” he said, referring to the shootings of unarmed civilians in places like Bucha and Irpin.
“After that no one has any pity for the Russians.”
The charred wreckage of Russian tanks still line all the main roads in Kyiv. Every few seconds, cars stop and families go out to take pictures, kids climb over.
It kind of feels cathartic. The other day, I saw a man working on his head by lifting a tank barrel up and down, as if he were weighing in.
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Bodies of dead Russian soldiers were abandoned near Kyiv
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(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by News East India staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)