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Gruesome images emerge from a neighborhood once besieged by Russian forces


After seeing the harrowing images of burned and mutilated corpses in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, you can't help but have a reaction. The Biden administration's response to those gruesome scenes is more sanctions on Russia. Russia denies its troops committed any crimes and calls the report from Bucha fake and the scene staged. NPR's Nathan Rott traveled there. And we want to warn that some of his reporting includes very graphic details.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: We visited three different parts of Bucha yesterday. None of them, I should say right now, appeared staged or fake in any way. One of the places we went was a street that was littered with burnt military transports, bullet casings, torn metal. It was in a residential area. Every home there was either destroyed or severely damaged. I was told by a resident there that multiple people, civilians, had died on that street. And we actually saw that in another location. Ukrainian police had found a pile of six bodies earlier this week - four women, two men - who had been killed by gunshots and then burnt. And we watched as they moved those badly burnt bodies into bags.

MARTINEZ: Wow. You also had a chance to talk to some of the people still there. And I can imagine those stories are probably pretty grim.

ROTT: Yeah. The first week we visited, I talked to a man who had a horrifying story. He said three Russians had asked him to come out of his house with his daughter and her husband. And they were asking about Nazis. Where are the Nazis, they said. He said there were none. But they took his son-in-law to the street and shot him in the head. At another place we went, a kind of mixed commercial residential area in Bucha, we met a crowd of people who were waiting for food and other goods to be dropped off. They were mostly older people who had remained. And I asked a man, Petro Trotsenko (ph), if he felt any relief since the Russian troops had left. Here's our translator, Luka, asking and Trotsenko's answer.

LUKA: (Non-English language spoken).

PETRO TROTSENKO: (Non-English language spoken).

ROTT: He begins to cry.

TROTSENKO: (Non-English language spoken).

LUKA: He can't say it with words.

TROTSENKO: (Non-English language spoken).

ROTT: "I want you to know," he says, "I was a soldier for the Soviet Union in Afghanistan when I was younger. And compared to what just happened here," he said, "that was heaven."

MARTINEZ: You're back in Kyiv now. How are the people there reacting to the news that's come out of Bucha?

ROTT: I mean, they're horrified. They're angry. They're frustrated that this war continues and that they're not getting more support. I talked to a man named Daniel Bilak, a Canadian-born local who's been an adviser to multiple prime ministers here in the past. Now he, like many civilians here, is serving with Ukraine's territorial defense. And here's what he had to say.

DANIEL BILAK: It looks as if the West is happy to fight Putin down to the last Ukrainian. And it does not have the courage of its own convictions. And this is now a moral issue. After Bucha, if NATO does not have moral clarity around this issue, then it starts to bear moral culpability.

ROTT: And, A, that's a sentiment I've heard from a lot of people here, frustration that NATO has not gotten more involved since these horrors have come to light.

MARTINEZ: NPR's Nathan Rott. Nathan, thanks.

ROTT: Yeah, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Nathan Rott is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where he focuses on environment issues and the American West.

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