SAY WHAT? - EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content. A Ukrainian volunteer In Bucha works to unbind the wrists of a dead man, his hands tied behind his back. Visiting the ravaged town, President Zelensky accused Russia of committing genocide after the discovery of mass graves and many executed civilians left in fields and on roadsides. Photo by Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images
Really, we have no words. But the stomach-churning stories and images emerging from Bucha and other Ukraine towns call for some response, acknowledgement, lamentation, as powerless as it is. "While we all have seen many painful videos and pictures in recent weeks, nothing can be compared to what we've seen from Bucha," said Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who called the grisly evidence of Russian war crimes "unspeakable." Bloody bodies half buried in dirt, many with hands tied behind them. Bodies slung into muddy mass graves, boots and feet emerging. Bodies left lying in the street where they were struck down, or toppled over bikes, or stuffed into wells, or splayed in ignoble piles under hastily thrown tarps. Women raped, men tortured, cities become dark, twisted rubble, cars strafed by bullets despite "Children" scratched into them, a helpless, hopeful hedge against death. The mayor of Motyzhyn, her husband and their son shot at close range and dumped in a shallow grave, reportedly after beingtortured when they refused to cooperate. "This is not a special military operation," said one resident. "This is genocide."
A.P. journalists reported seeing at least 21 bodies scattered around Bucha, several with their hands or feet bound. CNN reported dozens of bodies tossed into mass graves, with crying loved ones trying to locate their bodies. Human Rights Watch documented multiple mass executions, groups of kneeling men shot in the head, a woman cut, beaten and repeatedly raped, a woman and her 14-year-old son shot as they emerged from a basement where they were hiding. Ukraine officials say 410 bodies of civilians have been recovered, numbers certain to rise. Even as Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the atrocities "a punch to the gut" and vowed accountability, Russia's Ministry of Defense denied the reports as fake news and the images as "fabricated." We wish. In recent days, we've gotten emails that argue writing about Ukrainian heroism constitutes "cheerleading" for war, that there's no right or wrong, only victims. Yes, there are many victims. But there's also, more clearly each day, right and wrong here. In response to the stark wrong, some people of faith urge praying the imprecatory Psalms - "Oh God, break the teeth in their mouths" - to move from righteous indignation to solidarity. But even if we remember to curse and hold accountable not just evil people but systems, structures, mindsets,Russians - like Americans - show we have a long, long way to go.
(Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email: [email protected])