Are the corpses in Bucha real: a fact check

While the world is silent in front of the horrifying footage of Bucha, Russia claims that everything was a staging – the corpses were not real, some of them even moved.

A fact-check from Deutsche Welle shows: that this is a lie.

Terrifying footage has been circulating since the end of last week: streets in the city of Bucha, near Kyiv, are littered with corpses. The victims are not wearing uniforms, and some are handcuffed. After photos and videos of the Ukrainian army were published on April 2, journalists from around the world also covered the atrocities in Bucha.

At the same time, the scandalous accusation that Russia is just staging is spreading on social networks. The Russian Ministry of Defense writes in Telegram that the videos from Bucha are “staging and provocation”. The Russian embassy in Germany agrees with the statement, saying Bucha’s photos and videos are “another staging of the Kyiv regime for the Western media.” And Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova is even convinced that the United States and NATO have “ordered” the recordings to blame Russia.

“One corpse moves its hand and the other stands up”

However, none of the Russian institutions provides evidence for these allegations. And pro-Russian profiles on social networks are developing the following theory: corpses are not real at all, they are actors, everything is a big lie. A “proof” is a video from Bucha, for which a user claims that “the corpse on the right is moving its hand”. And another writes sarcastically: “Corpses in the streets … But wait, one of them raises his hand. And another suddenly stands up. What’s going on here?”

However, the video in question does not show a corpse raising its hand, nor does anyone suddenly stand up. We checked both allegations and found the place where the video was shot. This is Yablunska Street in the southern part of the town of Bucha. In Google Streetview footage from 2015, some of the buildings in the video can be identified, although more buildings have been erected there since then. The convoy from which the video was shot was moving northeast.

The first of the above-mentioned allegations about the video says that one of the corpses raised his hand. This refers to one of the bodies on the right side of the street on which the convoy is moving. At first glance, it seems as if something is moving as the car approaches the body. But this is not his hand.

Our video analysis shows that this is a kind of visual deception caused by a drop of rain on the windshield of the car from which the video was taken. It is this drop, which the wind slides up the glass, gives the impression of some movement. In another version of the video with a better resolution, it is clear that this is a drop of water, not a moving hand.

The second statement refers to another body that the car from the convoy passes by. It is said that in the rear-view mirror one can see for a moment how the corpse stands up after the convoy passes it. But even this is not true. Our video analysis found that the body continued to lie on the ground without moving. Exterior rear-view mirrors are usually distorted, making the field of view also distorted. This, combined with the movement of the vehicle and the camera itself, explains why this impression is created. Slow-motion video playback shows that even in the reflection of the rear-view mirror, the body continues to lie on the ground.

An investigation by the New York Times also revealed this: satellite images of the American company Maxar show that the bodies were lying on Yablunska Street on March 19, and some of them even earlier – since March 11. A comparison of satellite images from March 19 and a video released on April 2 shows that in both cases the bodies lay in the same places on the street. Thus, these images refute Russian claims that the corpses appeared in Bucha only after the withdrawal of the Russian army on March 30.

This is not the first time

This is not the first case since the war in Ukraine in which Russian authorities have denied alleged war crimes, calling the evidence false. For example, the attack on the maternity hospital in Mariupol was described as a “staging” by Russia’s permanent representative to the UN Security Council, as well as other representatives of the regime in Moscow.

However, the attack in Mariupol has been documented in detail, and the Russian government has not provided evidence of allegations that it was a staging.

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