On a two-day visit to a Ukrainian village occupied by Russian forces for more than a month, Shaun Walker spoke to residents who recounted stories of killings and looting by a demoralised invasion force:
The day the Russians arrived in the sleepy, windswept village of Staryi Bykiv, they killed six men. By the time they had departed 32 days later, the soldiers had carried out at least three more killings, destroyed the school, systematically looted dozens of houses and turned much of the central street into a wasteland of charred buildings and rubble.
The images from Bucha, west of Kyiv, have shocked the world and intensified Ukrainian anger over the Russian invasion, but the story emerging in harder-to-access small towns and villages east of the Ukrainian capital suggests those war crimes are far from an anomaly.
Novyi and Staryi Bykiv, two halves of one village separated by a small river, are about 50 miles (80km) east of Kyiv. Dotted with ramshackle cottages, their combined population is about 2,000. In normal times, very little happens here: ducks waddle through the potholed streets, and people work the fields or tend to their own small plots of land and livestock holdings.
A bicyclist passes a wrecked building in Novyi Bykiv. Photograph: Sviatoslav Medyk
The Russian army entered the area on 27 February, three days into its invasion, as part of its drive towards Kyiv from three directions. When the advance stalled, they set up a base, moving in tanks, artillery and surface-to-air missile systems.
The accounts given by dozens of residents in Staryi and Novyi Bykiv during a two-day visit by the Guardian paint a picture of a thieving, violent and demoralised invasion force that was confused about whether it was supposed to be liberating Ukrainians or destroying them.
Finally allowed to walk around freely after a month of terror, men and women wandered the streets on Thursday still in a state of shock. In the car park outside the small village administration building in Novyi Bykiv, children gawped at the charred shells of two Russian armoured vehicles, one with the uniform of a Russian soldier still draped over one of its hatches.
Read more of Shaun’s article here: After Russians’ retreat, scarred Ukrainian village recounts month of terror
Damage inside the school in Novyi Bykiv. Photograph: Sviatoslav Medyk