“Brother, we’ve been looking for you for so long,” he said, bursting into tears halfway through. His brother, Dmitry, has been missing for about a week, and neighbors told Vladimir he might be buried here.
“We thought you were alive,” shouts Vladimir.
Kyiv regional police and local residents say they believe at least 150 people were buried in the mass grave, but the mayor of Bucha said the death toll could be as high as 300. CNN could not independently verify their claims.
Vladimir gathers himself together, comforted by his wife, Anna, and a neighbor, Liubov, and leaves. He says he believes his brother is buried there, but the sad reality is he can’t know for sure – and maybe not for a very long time.
As Russian forces retreat from the area around kyiv, the horrors of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine are increasingly exposed. The death and destruction wrought by the Russian war machine is on full display in Bucha, where bodies could be seen on the streets of the suburbs as early as Sunday. Some had their hands tied behind their backs.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky blamed Russia for the killings inside the district, accusing Moscow of trying to end “his entire nation”.
In some cases, entire columns of Russian armored vehicles were trapped on narrow residential roads before being destroyed.
“They thought they could just drive down the streets and pass. They would be welcomed as if it was good to come here,” Valery Spichek, an officer with Ukraine’s national police, told us. “Maybe they think it’s okay to loot, destroy buildings and make fun of people.”
“But our people didn’t allow it,” he adds.
Vehicles are now rusting where they left off, evidence of the heavy losses Moscow suffered before being driven from the vicinity of kyiv.
The destruction extends to most surrounding buildings and other infrastructure, with very few houses intact, the majority uninhabitable after the Russian offensive on the capital.
The scene in Bucha is similar to what CNN has seen in other neighborhoods around kyiv, such as Irwin, Myla, Hostomel and as far north as Bordyanka.
In the latter, entire multi-storey buildings were flattened by artillery shells as Ukrainians and Russians battled for control of the area. Authorities say they fear corpses are lying under the rubble and the true death toll is still impossible to measure.