At the start of the invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces quickly rolled into Bucha, the previously flourishing commuter town around 30km from the capital, Kyiv. But the town quickly became known for alleged Russian atrocities, sparking a wide-ranging war crimes investigation as Putin’s forces retreated.
Russian forces pulled back from the town after a month-long siege at the very end of March.
But undated footage published on social media showed the valiant efforts of the Ukrainian, Valentyn Didkovskiy, as he defended his home against the Russian onslaught.
Belarusian journalist and non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council, Hanna Liubakova, described the efforts to deter Russian forces.
She tweeted: “Incredible. 64-year-old Valentyn Didkovskiy stopped the column of Russian troops and equipment in Bucha.
“He fired a grenade launcher from his own yard at a gasoline truck and later directed artillery at the Russian vehicle.
“Before that, he joined the territorial defence.”
Shortly after Russian forces peeled back from Bucha, evidence emerged of possible war crimes committed against civilians in the town.
Within days of Putin’s troops leaving, footage was discovered of bodies lying in the streets, and satellite imagery located suspected mass graves.
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Oleksiy Arestovych, one of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s advisors, urged the rest of the world to “pay attention to those war crimes, crimes against humanity” committed in Bucha.
He added: “These cities that have been liberated represent scenes from horror movies, post-apocalyptic scenes.
“Among the victims of the Russian crimes are raped women who (they) tried to burn, murdered local government officials, murdered children, murdered elderly people, murdered men, many of whom have their hands tied, traces of torture and shot in the back of their heads.”
The International Criminal Court declared Ukraine a “crime scene” shortly after the Russian departure, with chief prosecutor Karim Khan QC saying there were “reasonable grounds” to believe war crimes were committed.
Russia has denied killing civilians in Bucha or nearby Irpin.
Moscow claims bodies strewn across the streets or dumped in mass graves was staged, despite overwhelming evidence contradicting the Kremlin’s story.
Shortly after Russian forces withdrew from the town, Putin honoured a brigade Ukraine said were involved in war crimes in Bucha.
The soldiers were praised for their “mass heroism and bravery, steadfastness and fortitude” by the Russian leader.