This story contains graphic descriptions and images.
While most of the world gasped at the latest round of atrocities perpetrated by invading Russian troops in Ukraine, Kremlin propagandists and government officials are only doubling down. The shocking footage of the massacre that took place in the Ukrainian city of Bucha was repeatedly broadcast on Russian state television this week with the label “Fake” slapped across the screen.
During Monday’s broadcast of state TV show 60 Minutes, host Olga Skabeeva speculated that the town was chosen for an elaborate fabrication because of its name. “Biden said that Putin is a butcher. Bucha sounds like “butcher.” How could they not take advantage of such a town?” She later added: “President Putin described them all as “the Empire of lies,” and here is our confirmation.”
The so-called “lies” Skabeeva is referring to are the scenes of indescribable horror that were discovered by Ukrainian troops who arrived in Bucha this weekend after the Russian Army withdrew from the city. Scores of bodies, including those of women and children, were littered on roads and in yards, many of them found with their hands bound behind their backs and signs of rape or torture.
Russian state media churned out ridiculous assertions, claiming in part that the corpses of women and children depicted in the footage from Bucha—some of which were charred beyond recognition—were “moving their arms,” “getting their limbs out of the way to avoid the wheels of military vehicles” or even “getting up and walking away.”
While scenes from Bucha made headlines around the world, Interfax published a report on a ceremony conducted by the Russian military on April 2, in which several awards were presented to the Airborne Forces (VDV) of the Russian Federation in the Kyiv region. According to state TV outlet Zvezda, that unit had been involved in “holding back the actions of the enemy forces” and “performing the cleaning of settlements” in Bucha.
“In the Kyiv region, in the area where the tasks of the formation of the Airborne Forces were performed, the awarding of Russian paratroopers took place.The commander of the formation presented state awards to servicemen who distinguished themselves in combat missions during this special military operation,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement about the awards.
The same day, the media outlet Ria Fan published the names of seven Russian soldiers to its listing of “Z Heroes.” The state TV program Vesti Nedeli, hosted by Dmitry Kiselyov, showcased the medals awarded to the invading troops: "For Courage", “Suvorov” and “Zhukov.”
Immediately, participants of the state TV show Sunday Evening With Vladimir Soloviev jumped to heap praise upon the Russian troops and called for various rewards and bonuses, from debt forgiveness to pay raises. Instead of shaming the killers of Ukrainian civilians, Mikheyev loudly asserted: “We need to support them!” He added: “We need to raise their salaries, because they’re risking their lives! Their consumer debts should be written off... During war, we need to support the Russian warrior.”
Despite overwhelming evidence of the massacre, the Russian Defense Ministry has claimed that “not a single local in Bucha” suffered any harm while the town was under control of the Russian Armed Forces. During his meeting with UN Deputy Secretary General Martin Griffiths on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the extensive evidence of Russia’s war crimes “a staged production, organized on the streets,” which is being used “for anti-Russian purposes.”
The same day, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov asserted: “From what we have seen, the video materials cannot be trusted in many respects, because our specialists from the Ministry of Defense have identified signs of video fraud and all sorts of fakes.” Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed that the videos from Bucha “were fabricated and are a provocation,” claiming that Russian troops left Bucha on March 30. Despite Russia’s denials, satellite images obtained by The New York Times confirmed that bodies of massacred civilians lay in the streets of Bucha for weeks, while the town was in full control of the Russian troops.
Meanwhile, on his Sunday show, host Vladimir Soloviev angrily yelled that the goal of the West is a total destruction of Russia. He demanded: “Don’t get in the way of our Army’s work, on all levels! Free their hands!” Political scientist Sergey Mikheyev then chimed in with his own take on Bucha: “Maybe it’s a production, or maybe they brought the corpses from elsewhere. There is no shortage of dead bodies over there. There are no problems with [getting] corpses.”