21 unidentified bodies laid to rest in mass burial in Ukraine

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21 unidentified bodies laid to rest in mass burial in Ukraine

Lynsey Addario was quoted for The New York Times.

Twenty-one unidentified bodies were laid to rest in a mass burial conducted by the Rev. of the Rev. Andrii Halavin, a priest in Bucha, Ukraine, said on Wednesday.

BUCHA, Ukraine - A semblance of normal life had returned to Bucha after 33 days of terror. The ruined remnants of the Russian army that had been driven out of the city by April were long gone, and the rhythms of normal life had returned. More than six months since the Russians abandoned their effort to seize Kyiv and left behind mass graves of slaughtered civilians in this Kyiv suburb, Bucha is bustling. They are still burying the dead. Another 21 bodies were put into the ground on Wednesday. They had no names, just numbers.

A grave digger put No. A large row of crosses behind him is 154 in the ground. After around 400 bodies of Ukrainians were discovered in April, the killing of civilians in Bucha became a symbol of the savagery of the war. Hundreds of people have been buried, and those put in the ground Wednesday were among the last.

Andrii Halavin, the priest of the town's church, has buried nearly all of the city's unidentified dead. He performed the task one more time, offering a traditional prayer for the dead, walking around the graves with incense and blessing each one. As an anxious nation looks south, to the lands occupied by Russia for nearly six months, there is growing concern that the burials in Bucha were not just a coda to one tragedy, but perhaps a prelude to another.

The stories they tell have striking similarities to the crimes committed in Bucha. People taken from their homes at night and never seen again. The stories come out of people who fled, nearly all impossible to independently verify, but also bear many of the hallmarks of the documented atrocities in Bucha. Reports of brutal efforts to weed out the insurgents have grown as Ukraine attacks Russian positions deep behind enemy lines with the help of local partisans. In the sticky heat of August afternoon, the stench of the dead filling the air, the task in Bucha was as simple as it was grim: to try to give dignity to those whose identity remains unknown in life.

The official death record in Bucha was released by the city council last week as the burials began. It is 458. They have nine children. Officials said it was probably an incomplete tally. A Bucha Territorial Community foot patrol found a human body in the forest near the side of the road after the numbers were released. The body belongs to a resident of Kyiv, born in 1964, who was shot by Russian invaders, according to a statement by the Bucha City Council. The victim's daughter, the Council said, was kidnapped by the Russians and taken to Belarus on February 28. Her whereabouts are not known.