Ukraine: "Post-apocalyptic horror images from Bucha" is a depiction of the crime of genocide

, 21:45, 25.09.2023
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

The example of Hostomel clearly shows the sacrifice of Ukrainians, but also problems that will appear on a much larger scale when the rest of the country starts rebuilding.

Ukraine: Post-apocalyptic horror images from Bucha is a depiction of the crime of genocide

Crime in Bucha. 90 percent of cases were bullet wounds

In Hostomel, Ukrainian defenders achieved their first significant success in the defensive war against Russia, a pivotal victory that played a crucial role in saving Kyiv from the invading aggressor's troops. Now, efforts are underway to develop mechanisms for the reconstruction of towns that have been ravaged by occupation and war. The example of Hostomel, a town with several thousand inhabitants, vividly illustrates the sacrifices made by Ukrainians and the challenges that will arise on a much larger scale as the rest of the country embarks on the path to recovery.

The Turning Point in Kyiv's Defense

The fate of Kyiv's defense was sealed during the initial three days of the invasion. Russian forces breached Ukrainian borders from multiple directions, including an attack on the capital originating from Belarus. Simultaneously, elite Russian airborne troops conducted a daring landing operation at the Antonov airfield in Hostomel, located near Kyiv.

These commando units, much like the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, were tasked with seizing control of the airport to facilitate the landing of larger units and the subsequent advance toward Kyiv. The plan hinged on either encountering minimal resistance or achieving surprise due to the element of surprise. Russian propagandists openly discussed this strategy: the goal was to capture Kyiv within three days and either capture or force Ukrainian authorities to flee. Russian efforts were expected to be aided by saboteurs and turncoats from the political and military elite, who had been operating in the city for weeks.

35 days of occupation. Correspondence with Hostomel
They were in a civilian car, delivering medicines, when Russian troops shot and killed them


However, the Russian landing force, intended to take Hostomel and its airport, faced staunch resistance. The element of surprise was compromised because the Americans had warned in January that the Antonov airport would be a primary target in the event of an attack. The ensuing battle raged on for three days, during which Ukrainian defenders managed to inflict heavy casualties on the Russian forces and disrupt the airport's runways. While Hostomel was eventually occupied by Russian forces, the airport was rendered unusable for further reinforcements.

In March, former Defense Minister Andriy Zahorodniuk reflected on these events, noting that the Russian forces had attempted to reach Kyiv quickly but chose the wrong route, encountering formidable Ukrainian army units. They failed to capture Hostomel and subsequently attempted a landing in Wasylki. However, one plane carrying 160 commandos was shot down, and the other, after landing, was immediately attacked, resulting in the elimination of the Russian soldiers. The Russians also failed in their efforts to retake Hostomel. Reinforcements were supposed to arrive from Belarus, but logistical challenges and constant attacks along this route prevented the aggressor from amassing a sufficiently strong force to storm Kyiv.

After this conversation, the Russians eventually withdrew from the capital, leaving behind devastated towns, hundreds of civilian casualties, and a traumatized population deeply affected by the occupiers' cruelty. Reports from towns like Bucha and Irpin highlighted the widespread atrocities committed against civilians. Ukrainian prosecutors, with assistance from foreign entities such as French gendarmes, continue to document these crimes. In Hostomel, while the scale of atrocities was somewhat smaller, it was not devoid of them.

According to sources, the town's characteristics played a decisive role in this regard. Bucha and Irpin were primarily inhabited by the middle class, known for their nice cars and well-equipped houses. In contrast, neighboring Hostomel was an industrial town with a lower standard of living and less developed infrastructure. The war's experience demonstrated that occupiers harbored the greatest animosity toward Ukrainians living in significantly better conditions than themselves.

35 days of occupation. Correspondence with Hostomel
Residents fleeing town near Kyiv caught in shelling


Individual Stories Amidst the Chaos

Larysa Drozdova worked at the Antonov airport. On February 24, she arrived at work as usual, but the day took a terrifying turn as shelling commenced. Everyone sought shelter as the attack unfolded, and as it became clear that Hostomel was the target, airport employees attempted to evade the aggressor's troops. Larysa managed to slip away and sought refuge in a nearby forest, where a moped driver assisted her in reaching safety. She returned to Hostomel after the 35-day occupation.

During this period, tragedy befell the Antonov airport as the world's largest transport plane, the An-225 Mriya, succumbed to flames in one of its hangars. This iconic aircraft, which had previously transported Chinese masks to Poland as part of a government public relations initiative during the pandemic, was evacuated to safety after several hours. It's worth noting that Serhiy Bychkov, Antonov's director, lost his job for failing to heed warnings about the impending invasion, despite completing an engine overhaul on February 23. Interestingly, it was discovered that the plane could have taken off even with one engine, but the Mriya now lies in ruins beneath a hangar, guarded by the military.

Another figure, Prylypko, exemplified the complex dynamics of individuals caught in the midst of crisis. He had held power in Hostomel since 2015, facing suspension from his duties twice due to investigations into corruption and embezzlement. Despite having his house searched, none of these cases resulted in a final verdict. In 2014, Prylypko played a role in concealing the luxury cars of President Viktor Yanukovych, who had fled during the Revolution of Dignity – Yanukovych's residence in Mezhihirya was only 30 km from Hostomel. Prylypko treated the town as if it were his personal domain, with all three of his children serving as deputies of the village council, and one of his daughters heading the commission responsible for managing municipal land. His wife operated a notary office conveniently located opposite the administration building, and his son was a local deputy, illustrating the intertwining of power and business interests. Despite this, when the occupation commenced, Prylypko risked his life to assist residents.

Prylypko's untimely death on March 7 created a power vacuum, and given the martial law in effect, the election of a new head of administration was not feasible, both during the occupation and after liberation. As a result, Hostomel became the first low-level town to receive its own military-civilian administration, with 33-year-old Taras Dumenka appointed as its head by President Volodymyr Zelensky on March 21.

35 days of occupation. Correspondence with Hostomel
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Preparing for a Grand Reconstruction Effort

Meanwhile, the central Ukrainian authorities are actively preparing for an ambitious reconstruction plan for the entire country. This comprehensive 2,000-page document was unveiled on July 5 at a conference in Lugano. The government, led by Denys Shmyhal, estimated infrastructure losses alone at a staggering $104 billion, equivalent to half of Ukraine's pre-war GDP. However, the reconstruction plan encompasses much more than just infrastructure repair. Authorities aim to modernize and rebuild the entire economy, allocating a total of $750 billion for these endeavors.

The main source of financing for this monumental task is expected to come from the confiscated property of Russia and Russian oligarchs. However, the legal mechanism for this remains under negotiation. Ukrainian officials are in discussions with Western partners to create a legal framework that would allow the use of currently frozen Russian funds for Ukraine's reconstruction efforts. While this approach represents a precedent, it is seen as a necessary step to fund the nation's recovery.

Previously, world leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, European Commission officials, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, had publicly promised a new Marshall Plan for Ukraine. In comparison, the commitments made in Lugano were viewed as falling short of expectations.

35 days of occupation. Correspondence with Hostomel
The Battle of Hostomel Airport: A Key Moment in Russia's Defeat in Kyiv


Hostomel's Resilience and Rebuilding

Most of Hostomel's residents fled the city as soon as the violence began, or in subsequent evacuation convoys. During the 35-day occupation, around 1,493 people were registered by Ukrainian authorities as remaining in the town.

As Oleksandr notes, the absence of communication and electricity meant that residents emerged from hiding two weeks after the liberation, unaware that the occupation had ended. In a testament to the community's resilience, he mentions that if it weren't for Elon Musk's Starlink, even the authorities would have had no means of communication.

Hostomel stands as an example of the hardships endured by Ukrainians during the conflict and the challenges they face as they strive to rebuild their lives and communities in the wake of devastation.


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