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Satellite Images of Corpses in Bucha Appear to Confirm Russian Atrocities

The photos contradict Russian claims of a hoax conducted by Ukrainians in the town of Bucha.

Field engineers of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine conduct mine clearing among destroyed vehicles on a street of Bucha on Tuesday, as Ukrainian officials say over 400 civilian bodies have been recovered from the wider Kyiv region, many of which were buried in mass graves.
Genya Savilov/AFP via Getty Images

This story is part of War in Ukraine, CNET's coverage of events there and of the wider effects on the world.

Warning: This story contains graphic and disturbing images and details from the Ukraine-Russia war

Satellite images of the city of Bucha near Ukraine's capital Kyiv appear to confirm images that have emerged on social media and in media outlets showing mass graves and bodies in the street following Russia's bloody and brutal invasion.

Satellite imagery company Maxar released high-resolution photos taken from orbit that it says "verifies and corroborates recent social media videos and photos that reveal bodies lying in the streets and left out in the open for weeks," according to an emailed statement.

Video and photos posted to social media by a local Ukrainian official show nearly a dozen bodies lying in the streets of one the suburb's neighborhood. 

An analysis of the images by The New York Times also contradicts claims from the Kremlin that the bodies were "another hoax," suggesting Ukrainians placed the bodies there themselves after March 30, roughly when Russian forces withdrew from Bucha. 

The Times' analysis of the satellite images notes objects the size of human bodies lying on Yablonska Street in Bucha in the same locations shown on the video shot on the ground there. The satellite shots were captured on March 19, when Russian troops were still in control of the city. 

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This image, taken of Bucha on March 19, appears to show bodies lying in the street in the center of the image running from top to bottom.

Maxar

Maxar imagery also shows photos of a mass grave found at a church nearby. 

Media reports say hundreds of bodies, most civilians, were found in the grave behind the Church of St. Andrew and Pyervozvannoho All Saints.

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In this satellite image, a mass grave can be seen behind a church in Bucha.

Maxar

On Monday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said over 300 people had been killed in Bucha. In an address to the United Nations Security Council Tuesday, he accused Russian troops of a long list of atrocities including rape, torture and murder of Ukrainian civilians and disposing of bodies by throwing them in wells. Zelenskyy then shared a graphic video showing images of destruction and death from across Ukraine. 

"Yesterday I returned from our city of Bucha, recently liberated from Russian troops," Zelenskyy said via a video feed from Kyiv and speaking through a UN translator. "There is not a single crime they would not commit there."

US President Biden has called such acts "war crimes" and said Russian President Vladimir Putin should be brought to trial. As my CNET colleague Dan Avery explains, the International Criminal Court -- which investigates and tries individuals for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression -- defines war crimes as the murder, torture or enslaving of civilians or prisoners of war; the taking of hostages; raping and looting; the wanton destruction of civilian property; and drafting children under 15 into the military.

While the acts reported in Bucha fit the definition of war crimes as defined by the International Criminal Court, and the court could indict Putin, Russia did not ratify the treaty accepting the court's jurisdiction. 

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, prompting broad condemnation and sanctions from countries in Europe, as well as the United States and Japan, among others. Russian forces have failed to capture the capital of Kyiv and have begun to withdraw forces from the northern part of the country, focusing instead on eastern and southern regions like the badly battered city of Mariupol. 

Reports suggest thousands or even tens of thousands of Russian and Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the fighting, although figures are hard to come by. 

As of April 5, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reports 1,480 Ukrainian civilians have been killed in the war, but OHCHR "believes that the actual figures are considerably higher."