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The Banality of Brutality: 33 Days Under Siege in Block 17, Bucha, Ukraine

Bombings, gunfire, and constant fear were interspersed with panic, grinding boredom, and neighborly bickering, but also cooperation and commiseration.

The Russian occupation of Bucha lasted just 33 days — from late February to April 1 this year — but it has already become a byword for brutality.

Mass murders of civilians there made headlines around the world. Journalists and officials rushed to the Kyiv suburb to interview survivors and gather evidence that war crimes had been committed.

But what was it really like to live through those 33 days of occupation?

OCCRP and its Ukrainian partner Slidstvo.Info obtained the logs of a Telegram chat used by 88 people from a single apartment building in Bucha, known as Block 17.

The block was built in the waning days of the Soviet Union to house the employees of a glassworks across the street. Many older residents still know each other from those days, when they worked together producing glass pipes and windows at the factory on Yablunska Street, a major thoroughfare that cuts a diagonal swath through town.

In March and April, as they grappled with the indignities of war — being shot at in the streets and in their homes, having to scrounge for firewood and fresh water — they sent thousands of text and voice messages to each other, along with photos, memes, and videos, creating a unique snapshot of life under siege.

The chat logs are messier than other wartime narratives. The view from Block 17 could be parochial, scattered, confused, and occasionally profane, as residents desperately tried to piece together an understanding of what was happening around them.

Bombings, gunfire, and constant fear were interspersed with panic, grinding boredom, and neighborly bickering, but also cooperation and commiseration.

Read the report at the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project

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