Russian war crimes Makariv Ukraine occupation


First-hand accounts, Russian War Crimes

Article by: Anatolii Shara
Residents of the small town of Makariv, a town near Kyiv, spent one month under Russian occupation. They witnessed Russian bombings, destruction, and killings. As soon as the Russian Army found people were sheltered in a cultural center, they shelled it out of existence. We visited what remains of the town and talked to its residents.

The town of Makariv is a small quiet picturesque place in the Kyiv Oblast. For a long time, it was famous for being one of the ancient settlements of the Kyivan Rus.

But now Makariv is infamous for the atrocities that were committed by the Russian soldiers during a one-month-long occupation of the town. Here Russians killed more than 150 people, all civilians.

Russian war crimes

Evacuation bus in Makariv after the bombing. Photo: Kostyantin Rybak

Those who were lucky to survive had to live in cellars for the whole month. The Russians occupied only two districts in Makariv – the north and the south. The other town districts were constantly and heavily shelled by rockets, and mortars, and bombed by aircraft and helicopters.

Russians destroyed many objects of the civilian infrastructure. A newly-build medical center, new kindergarten, many private houses, and public buildings are almost destroyed. Many people who tried to flee were mercilessly killed by Russian soldiers. When Russians left, smashed and burnt cars with corpses inside were lining up on the road out of Makariv.

Before the Russian invasion, the town had up to 15,000 inhabitants. Less than a thousand people remain here after the occupation – others fled or were killed.

I left for Makariv early in the morning and drove down the highway that had been controlled by the Russian military. Now it is filled with the burnt-down remnants of Russian tanks, APCs, and military trucks. Their charred skeletons are like real magnets for the passers-by.

Russian war crimes

Burnt-down car on the road to Makariv. Photo: Anatolii Shara

Makariv greeted me with very unpleasant weather of strong northern wind and cold drizzle. I saw many destroyed buildings on the way to the town center. A man with a broom was standing near one of such buildings vigorously sweeping the street. When I tried talking to him, he started to mumble as if he were still in shock. The only thing I could understand was that before the invasion he owned an auto shop here - bombardments left only charred walls out of his shop.

Russian war crimes

Destroyed auto shop in Makariv Photo: Kostyantin Rybak

He explained that sweeping the road near the ruins is his way to calm himself down. Together we counted 12 shell artillery craters around. There is no explanation why Russians were shelling the area so hard – at that time, Ukrainian troops were not even close. And the building of the bakery plant stands across the road also destroyed to the ground.

I drove on to the city center. At the steps of what looked like a public building, there was a queue of mostly elderly people. Here they were getting humanitarian aid - loaves of bread, bottles of water, and containers with ready prepared food. It looked like people were especially grateful for the bread. Each of those who received a loaf immediately tried to bite and smack it with pleasure.

People invited me into the building though it was dark inside, and I saw only a ray of light from a cellphone that was used as a flashlight. A middle-aged woman held it in her hand while trying to read the list of names in front of her.

Her name was Natalia. Previously, she worked as a cultural program coordinator at the Makariv Cultural Center. But after the beginning of the war, together with the director of the center by the name of Lyudmila she has organized a shelter in its building.

Russian war crimes

Inside the Makariv Cultural Center. Photo: Kostyantin Rybak

Natalia asked me to wait for a few seconds while she made herself pretty, combed her hair, and wiped the tears from her eyes. She explained that, ib her opinion, today Ukrainian women should look especially beautiful - and strong at the same time. Natalia was both.

Russian war crimes

The Makariv Cultural Center after occupation. Photo: Kostyantin Rybak

She and Lyudmila had sheltered more than 200 people inside the Cultural Center. Natalia showed me the place where people were hiding from the bombings. But one day a local collaborator informed Russians about this place. And Russians responded in an instant: they shelled it from artillery and mortars. Three civilians were killed, the upper floors of the building were destroyed, and evacuation buses standing nearby were burned down.

Russian war crimes

Burnt-down evacuation bus in Makariv. Photo: Kostyantin Rybak

Speaking of that, Natalia couldn't help but cry. There were no other places in town to hide in, and Natalya with Lyudmila managed to arrange some other busses and helped the survivors to get out of this hellhole to Western Ukraine.

While we were talking, more people came to get food, and I couldn’t make them wait for Natalia. This is a story about a heroic Ukrainian woman. She lives in Makariv but is only one of the many Ukrainians who devoted themselves to helping people to survive in that war.


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