Shortly after the discovery of scores of dead civilians in the town of Bucha northwest of Kyiv on April 1, social media users started sharing a video of the town’s mayor with a claim that he blamed Ukrainian forces for the atrocities. This is false. The video was made more than a month before the Russian army’s retreat and the subsequent discovery of the atrocities; at the time, the mayor clearly said on the video that no one had been killed. The video was edited to take out a sentence in which he makes clear that the destruction was a result of Ukrainian troops repelling “enemy” forces.
“Civilians in Bucha near Kyiv, from which the Russian army retreated, were murdered by the Ukrainian forces. Ukraine’s effort to portray Bucha as a new Srebrenica has been false from the start. The dead, not counting those ‘arranged for photographers’, but the real victims, lost their lives during Ukrainian artillery shelling, which was still going on a day after the Russian army retreated. This was confirmed by the town’s mayor,” claims this Czech Facebook post shared by more than 200 users since it was posted on April 4, 2022.
The attached video shows the mayor of Bucha, Anatoly Fedoruk, standing in front of a completely destroyed street strewn with burned-out vehicle parts. The mayor says in Ukrainian: “Vokzalna Street, the city of Bucha, here are the results of their invasion and the work of the Armed Forces (of Ukraine). Of course, the private sector, which is nearby, was also damaged, but we will rebuild everything. Everyone is alive, everyone is healthy, Ukraine’s Armed Forces have done a good job, everything will be Ukraine!”
When was the video taken?
Using reverse image search of stills from the video shared on Facebook, AFP found that Ukrainian media published the original video on February 28, only four days after Russian forces invaded Ukraine and were trying to capture the capital Kyiv, which lies southeast of Bucha. At the time, Ukrainian forces had briefly repelled the Russian attack, and the mayor was showing the damage to the town’s infrastructure, wrought by the clashing armies.
The article with the original video was published by the Ukrainian news website TSN on February 28 with the title: “The mayor of Bucha showed what the battlefields in the city look like now: Video”. The article names the mayor as “Anatoly Fedoruk” and goes on to say: “According to Fedoruk, the column of enemy equipment was completely destroyed, there were no losses among the defenders and the civilian population – this is the main thing.” It attributes the footage to the Telegram channel “Big Kyiv”, which describes itself as providing the latest news and images from Kyiv and the surrounding region.
A clear indication that the footage was taken in the first days of the war are Fedoruk’s words that “everyone is alive, everyone is healthy”. The video was taken before the Russian army succeeded in capturing the town and more than a month before its eventual retreat revealed the scope of the atrocities, including a mass grave filled with civilians.
Fedoruk has since repeatedly blamed the atrocities perpetrated in Bucha on the Russian forces, in Ukrainian as well to international media, including AFP. Here he is appearing alongside Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, who visited Bucha on April 4 (from about 3:00).
Key context cut from video in false posts
As well as misrepresenting Fedoruk’s remarks as having been made after Russia’s final withdrawal from Bucha, the Facebook posts cut out key context given by Fedoruk in the full version of his remarks.
The edited video starts with Fedoruk saying “Vokzalna Street, the city of Bucha, here are the results of their invasion and the work of the Armed Forces (of Ukraine),” which leaves the cause of the destruction ambiguous.
The full version of the video from February 28, on the other hand, starts with him saying: “The Armed Forces of Ukraine stopped the enemy column,” making clear that he is referring to a clash between Ukrainian troops and Russian forces. Only then does he continue with the “Vokzalna Street” quote.
In both the full and edited versions of the video Fedoruk describes Ukrainian forces as doing a “good job”.