"The Devil is on Earth": Zelenskiy and European leaders mark anniversary of Bucha massacre

Zelenskiy is joined by European leaders in marking the liberation of Kyiv's suburbs / Ukraine's Presidential Office
By Dominic Culverwell in London April 2, 2023

Ukraine marked the painful one-year anniversary of the liberation of the occupied territories in Kyiv’s suburbs on March 31.

In just 33 days, Russia committed over 9,000 war crimes during the brutal occupation of the Bucha region, the Kyiv Independent reported, with the murder of more than 1,400 civilians, including 37 children, and reports of rape and torture.

“It was horrifying,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said at a press conference. “The Devil is not somewhere out there, it is on Earth.”

The crimes shocked the world and led to Russia’s expulsion from the UN Human Rights Council. Nevertheless, Moscow denies any wrongdoing and blasted the reports as fake news, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

To mark the anniversary, Zelenskiy was joined by Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger, Slovenian PM Robert Golob, Moldovan President Maia Sandu and Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic at a ceremony in the region. The leaders will attend the summit "Bucha Russia's responsibility for crimes in Ukraine" later in the day.

“What happened in Bucha one year ago was not an isolated episode. Those executions in cold blood were part of a bigger plan. The Kremlin's plan to eliminate Ukrainians. Their national identity. Their sense of being. War criminals will be held accountable,” tweeted European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Zelenskiy presented Bucha with an honorary award for its suffering and bravery. He assured the war-torn nation that Ukraine will never let Russia forget its crimes, announcing that all murderers will be brought to justice.

Since the occupation, nearly 100 Russian soldiers have been charged with crimes, with 35 indicted and sent to court, including the commander of Russia's Central Military District. Two Russian soldiers have been sentenced to 12 years in prison for the illegal detention of civilians and looting.

The devastated region is slowly coming back to life, as bne IntelliNews noted last summer. An immense effort from mine action specialists managed to make Bucha habitable again in just one month after Russian troops planted hundreds of thousands of explosives as they left.

Nevertheless, the level of destruction is immense, with mine accidents still occurring and countless houses obliterated. Thousands of citizens remain homeless, some stuck in temporary shelters funded by the Polish government, where life is cramped and confined to a small room shared with four other people.

“It was very hard to move here,” Ira, a resident at a temporary accommodation unit in the liberated town of Irpin, told bne IntelliNews. “We understand it is not our home and there is not enough room for everyone.”

Nevertheless, like many, she refuses to leave her city despite losing everything.

“I had my childhood here. My grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents lived here. I dream of a new house, the reconstruction of the city and of victory,” she said.

The Bucha massacre revealed to the world Russia’s true bellicose intention. Nevertheless, the liberation of the towns and villages and the survival of residents, many of whom came together to protect one another and provide humanitarian aid, also showed the strength of Ukrainians.

“For many residents of the Kyiv region, it was the most horrific moment in life. But the liberation of these cities became proof that Ukraine will win,” Zelenskiy tweeted.

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