Ukrainian war: how the police go from house to house to pick up the dead in a van that smells of death | world news

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Pulling up outside a small house in a rural village near kyiv, the police team got out of their van with another body bag.

A young man was waiting at the front door to usher them into the garden where, next to a shallow grave in a patch of mud, lay the body of his father, Yuri Vasakin, 62.

The son said Russian soldiers beat and then shot him in early March when they took over a number of villages and hamlets around the town of Makariv.

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Yuri Vasakin’s body was among those collected by local police
Yevgenii Vasakin - Haynes copy
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Yevgenii Vasakin shrugged when asked why his father was killed

When asked why they targeted his father, Yevgenii Vasakin just shrugged.

Officials said more than 130 bodies – all civilians – were recovered from this area west of the capital, the majority of those shot by Russian troops.

And the toll is getting heavier.

“It’s horrible. They’re not humans,” said the city’s mayor, Vadim Tokar, a tall man in military fatigues.

Evidence unearthed from gardens and fields seemed to indicate that Russian troops were systematically slaughtering some residents.

“We found bodies all over the neighborhood, everywhere Russian forces were occupying,” the mayor said.

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Russian soldiers withdrew from the area last week as part of a wider withdrawal from all of northern Ukraine.

Their outing revealed the extent of the horrors that took place as their tanks trampled the lives and livelihoods of Makariv residents over the previous month.

Local police officer Yuri Nechai and his team were tasked with helping pick up the pieces in their silver van, armed with a list of locations on a piece of paper.

They used to patrol a calm and peaceful community.

Now they have to pick up the bodies.

This means the sight of death no longer has an impact.

“One month our territory goes to war,” Mr. Nechai said, in broken English.

“I see how my friend explodes. After that, I have no idea when I found bodies.”

His team finds plenty – more than 20 in the last three days alone.

Yuri Nechay - copy Haynes
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Yuri Nechay is a local police officer

There was another body in the garden next to the Vasakin house.

The victim was a retired police officer. He too had been shot.

The officers carefully put his body in another body bag, closed it, picked it up and then transported it to the van.

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman has denied that Russian troops killed civilians in Ukraine.

The young policeman was incredulous at this remark.

“Can I say what I think in English? he asked, speaking in Ukrainian, then said, “It’s *** bulls.”

Mr Nechai continued: “I know so many people, relatives. They call me and tell me, when the Russian army enters his house, takes the people from the house and shoots them.”

In a village about nine miles away, the local mayor said Russian troops killed his cousin, Vitaly Pavolvych, and his cousin’s neighbor – separately – in execution style.

Anatolii Kebukevych said he didn’t know why but he wondered if his cousin had been shot because of something they saw on one of his cellphones.

Both men were buried in a field behind their house.

Police recover body - copy Haynes
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Police recover body

“They killed Vitalik first,” the mayor said.

“They tied his hands behind his back and made him kneel down. They shot him. Then they went to Vadym [the neighbour]. They put him in the basement. It looked like he refused to kneel. They shot him in the legs, made him kneel down and then shot him in the neck.”

Back with the police van, the smell of death was overwhelming.

They had four bodies in the back, but needed to recover 10 before they could take them to the local morgue.

Mr Nechai said he was alerted to three other victims buried in makeshift graves at a nearby village cemetery.

As they got back into the vehicle, they drove off.

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