Ukraine marks anniversary of liberation of Bucha, 'symbol of atrocities'

Graves of unidentified people killed by Russian soldiers during occupation of the Bucha town, are seen at the town's cemetery, before the first anniversary of its liberation, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in the town of Bucha, outside Kyiv, Ukraine March 30, 2023. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukrainians were marking the first anniversary of the liberation of the town of Bucha from Russian occupation on Friday, with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy saying Kyiv would never forgive those responsible for alleged atrocities there.

Ukrainian forces recaptured the small towns of Bucha and Irpin to the northwest of Kyiv in late March last year as Russian invasion forces abandoned an attempt to seize the capital.

International investigators are now collecting evidence in those towns and other places where Ukraine says Russian troops committed large-scale atrocities. Russia denies the allegations.

After Ukraine took back control of Bucha, harrowing images of dead bodies lying in the street were beamed across the world.

Russia's occupation of the town lasted 33 days, resulting in more than 1,400 deaths, including 37 children, Kyiv said.

"More than 175 people were found in mass graves and torture chambers. 9,000 Russian war crimes. 365 days since it is a free Ukrainian сity once again," Zelenskiy said.

"A symbol of the atrocities of the occupying country's army. We will never forgive. We will punish every perpetrator," he wrote on social media.

Bucha, a leafy suburb that is now a regular port of call for visiting foreign leaders, was expected to hold commemorative events to mark the anniversary later on Friday.

Fighting is still raging in the east and south of Ukraine, where Russian forces hold swathes of territory captured after they invaded in February 2022.

For places like Bucha hundreds of miles from the fighting, the war is still felt with regular air raid sirens telling residents to take cover from air strikes that have caused sweeping power outages.

Residents in Bucha told Reuters this week of the deep psychological wounds left by the occupation and said it would take generations to get over it.

Some buildings remain battered in the town and a scrapyard is full of cars and military vehicles destroyed during last year's fighting.

"We should understand that it's easy to rebuild walls, but it's much harder to rebuild a wounded soul," said Andriy Holovin, a priest at a Ukrainian Orthodox parish.

(Reporting by Max Hunder, Writing by Tom Balmforth, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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