“They killed everyone.” Anger in Ukraine over barbarity of Russian troops – POLITICO

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Kyiv — US Army veteran Ryan O’Leary looks a little unsteady and draws heavily when he smokes — not surprising after what he saw and did during some vicious firefights on the northern outskirts of Kyiv over the past month, weeks at the most intense Frontlines in Ukraine.

Additionally, he was visibly horrified by what he had seen over the past 48 hours as he helped clean up operations in the town of Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, after a Russian retreat that was partially routed.

Iowan, 35, who has traveled to Afghanistan and Iraq, is one of hundreds of foreign volunteers who volunteered with the Ukrainian Foreign Legion immediately after Russia invaded. He says he did this to “support democracy”. He reached Kyiv on March 1 and within hours was dispatched with about a dozen American and British military veterans to Moshchun, a village near Bucha that is part of an uneven line of settlement preventing Russians from moving into the north from the north to invade the capital of Ukraine.

O’Leary was in the fight for a month without much rest; and on Saturday he was ordered to Bucha, the same day Ukraine declared the once-quiet suburb liberated from Russian troops.

Bucha is now at the center of an international outcry. Ukrainian officials and human rights groups have accused Russian forces of massacring civilians in Bucha and other villages on the outskirts of Kyiv. The barbarism exposed in Bucha after Russian forces withdrew days ago is fueling calls for international investigations into war crimes – and adding to Ukrainian anger.

“I fought ISIS and the Taliban in combat zones for seven years, and what the Russians did to civilians is insane,” says O’Leary. The veteran added: “They killed everyone – not just men, as the media is now reporting. They also killed women. It’s something I will never forget. If you go into some of the villages you will see dead civilians with their hands tied behind their backs.

“The photos and videos you’re looking at right now only tell half the story,” he says. “We went into a house, cleared the house of mines, and there was a van in the back yard and there were five dead women in it. They had been shot; then someone tried to burn them.” There were other reports of burned and half-burned female bodies, raising suspicions that whoever set them on fire was trying to destroy evidence of rape.

“We captured seven abandoned Russian soldiers; They hid on a golf course. I don’t know what happened to them,” he says.

O’Leary expresses a certain professional pity for the hopelessness of some of the Russian conscripts he fought. “They don’t know what they’re doing,” he says. “Some of them are still kids and have only been training for a few months. You can’t teach anyone anything in that short time. Our sniper, another American, shot a guy in the chest. He fell and bled to death. Another Russian tried to grab his gear. We shot him. The next day they took over a building about 200 meters from us and started shooting and we shot back with a rocket aimed at the top floor and they all ran out of the building. It was a turkey shoot. We just dumped them.”

However, sympathy for the plight of any Russian soldier is very low in Ukraine after mounting allegations of murder and torture of civilians in towns and villages briefly occupied by Russian forces. Ukrainian officials have labeled the killings “executions” and argue that many of those killed may have been on Russian hit lists drawn up before the invasion. But residents who have fled these cities paint a different picture – they describe random shootings of ordinary people for no reason whatsoever.

“There were dead bodies of civilians on some streets in Bucha when I walked,” says Veronika. The father of one of her neighbors was shot while walking back into his house, she says. “Sometimes they killed people for no reason – they didn’t give a reason. I do not know why. They just didn’t want them alive or anything and they just killed them,” she adds. Veronika, who left Ukraine and is now in Spain, says she knows about a girl who has been raped but the girl refuses to talk about it. “They burned down houses just for fun. Like they don’t care.”

in one Post on Facebook On Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy echoed the sentiments of many Ukrainians as more evidence of the killings in Bucha under Russian occupation came to light. He said photos of the dead should be shown to the mothers of Russian soldiers. “Look what bastards you’ve raised. Killers, looters, butchers,” he said in the Post.

The allegations of civilian massacres are not only fueling outrage. They also contribute to a widespread determination not to make concessions to Russia in peace talks and to wage war until all Russian forces are expelled from the country, including Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014. And from Moscow’s detached republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainians and Russians have been fighting for eight years.

This view is also held by ethnic Russians who have fled predominantly Russian-speaking cities in eastern and south-eastern Ukraine. Russian soldiers were told by their officers early in the invasion that they would be greeted as heroes. Instead, to their apparent surprise, they were met with civil protests and resentment. Widespread looting and theft by Russian soldiers has fueled the ire of locals, with some saying it is a tactic of brutal terror aimed at breaking their will, and others suggesting it was simple hooliganism by undisciplined troops acts.

Lydia, the mother of a nine-year-old girl, spoke of a change of heart and belonging on the part of many of her neighbors in her Donbass city of Sloviansk, north of Donetsk. Today, evacuated from the central Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia, she says: “In 2015, most people were pro-Russian and wanted to be part of Russia. But for now, the majority of the population has switched. You see what the Russian soldiers are doing. You see what Russia brings.”

She stands in front of an evacuation center and describes the exhausting two-day journey that she and her family needed to get to Vinnytsia. She had to give up everything. “Look at me,” she says, pointing to her clothes. “I left without anything – just the clothes I was in. These clothes don’t belong to me; they were donated. Putin says he came to save us. But I didn’t have to save. Now I’m doing it because of the invasion.”

Dozens of Russian speakers I spoke to say they are disgusted by the Kremlin’s claims that the shelling of civilians and the pictures of dead civilians in Bucha and some other Ukrainian cities were staged. Some say that when they explain to relatives in Russia what is going on in Ukraine, they are rebuffed and told that the problem is only due to NATO or that Ukrainians are faking things. They try to explain to them that ethnic Russians and Russian speakers suffer just as much as ethnic Ukrainians.

“I’ll tell them what I saw,” says Anya, a mother of two boys and evacuee who now lives in Kyiv from the East. “I send them photos and videos and they still don’t believe me. You only watch Russia One Channel and listen to state radio; they are being brainwashed.”

“I’ve given up talking to them,” she adds. "They killed everyone." Anger in Ukraine over barbarity of Russian troops – POLITICO

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