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Refuting Moscow’s claim, satellite images show bodies were in Bucha for weeks

Analysis of aerial close-ups indicates corpses lay in war-torn town for at least three weeks, while Russia continues to insist they appeared after its forces withdrew

This handout satellite image released by Maxar Technologies shows a view of Yablonska Street in Bucha, Ukraine, on March 19, 2022, when bodies of civilians were on the street and found by Ukrainian officials weeks later when Russian forces withdrew. (Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies/AFP)
This handout satellite image released by Maxar Technologies shows a view of Yablonska Street in Bucha, Ukraine, on March 19, 2022, when bodies of civilians were on the street and found by Ukrainian officials weeks later when Russian forces withdrew. (Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies/AFP)

Satellite photographs released on Monday appear to rebut Russian assertions that dead bodies in civilian clothing found in Bucha had appeared there after Russian forces retreated from the devastated Ukrainian town.

Mid-March satellite imagery of a Bucha street appears to show several bodies of civilians lying dead in or just off the roadway where Ukrainian officials recently said they found multiple corpses after Russian troops withdrew.

“High-resolution Maxar satellite imagery collected over Bucha, Ukraine (northwest of Kyiv) verifies and corroborates recent social media videos and photos that reveal bodies lying in the streets and left out in the open for weeks,” Maxar Technologies spokesman Stephen Wood said Monday in a statement.

The New York Times published an analysis of close-ups of Bucha’s Yablonska street, and concluded — after comparing it with video footage from April 1 and 2 of dead bodies along the street — that many had been there since at least three weeks ago, when Russian forces were in control of the town.

AFP photographers entered Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, on Saturday and directly confirmed the presence of some 20 bodies — all in civilian clothing, some with their hands bound — in scenes that have sparked global revulsion, and accusations of war crimes.

Russia’s defense ministry has denied responsibility, saying that all its units “withdrew completely from Bucha as early as March 30,” while the Kremlin has dismissed the graphic images emerging from the town as “fakes” concocted by Ukraine.

Ira Gavriluk holds her cat as she walks among the bodies of her husband, brother, and another man, who were killed outside her home in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Monday, April 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

That claim was repeated at the United Nations on Monday, where Moscow’s envoy Vassily Nebenzia reiterated at a press conference that the corpses pictured in Bucha were not there before Russian troops left the city.

“Suddenly they appear on the streets lying on the road, one by one, left and right, some of them are moving, some of them showing the signs of life,” he said, claiming the scenes were “arranged by the Ukrainian information, information warfare machine.”

But Maxar satellite images dated March 19 and March 21 show that multiple bodies were on Bucha’s Yablonska street at that time.

And according to the Times analysis, Maxar images show dark objects of similar size to human bodies appearing on the street between March 9 and 11.

Many of the bodies pictured in the satellite images appeared in the precise position on the ground as seen in video footage from the same street filmed by a Ukrainian local council member, and in photographs by international news outlets.

In a second side-by-side comparison, the Times studied a video posted on Instagram of a body in the street in front of two cars. A satellite image from March 21 shows the corpse and the vehicles in the same location.

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