This time he brought some friends to record the moment.
“I’m glad to see they haven’t advanced further down the road,” Grishin said Tuesday, as his friends snapped photos of a ghostly armored personnel carrier, also destroyed by Ukrainian forces. “I hope there are more places with destroyed Russian material.”
Ukrainians who fled heavy fighting around the capital filled the highways to return home after the Russians withdrew to redeploy in the east, creating bottlenecks made worse by destroyed checkpoints and bridges. In addition to the traffic jam, new roadside attractions await returnees: columns of gutted and mutilated Russian vehicles, dripping with rain and surrounded by rubbish from the battles that raged throughout the month of March.
Visiting the pieces of the pop-up museum has become a sort of cathartic release for civilians picking up the fragments of their interrupted lives, digging through the physical evidence of a war of aggression with a sense of exhausted relief and pride that Ukraine , for now, expelled Russia from the kyiv region.
That sentiment showed in a stream of selfies atop Russian T-72 tanks stripped of their turrets and armored personnel carriers blown in half. Like the wartime version of the world’s biggest ball of string, the vehicles are a constant draw, as drivers cruising through kyiv’s suburbs stop for the perfect Instagram shot.
Victoria Yarmuska, a resident of Bucha who fled fighting at the start of the war, was told by neighbors that her home had survived the shelling that tore through much of the town. Before seeing her again at home, however, she drove through half a dozen charred vehicles with her husband, Igor, and they took pictures of each other.
“I feel like I’m watching a movie, a really scary movie,” she said. “Watching all of this with my own eyes, I’m starting to realize this is the reality.”
This reality is what many people sought to capture as they trudged through mud pockmarked by shrapnel and shreds of Russian uniforms. Karolis Kairys, a friend of Grishin’s, had come from Lithuania to oversee the delivery of a vehicle which he helped organize through his car enthusiast club for the Ukrainian army.
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He was adamant about sharing his photos on Facebook, he said, as some of his friends are skeptical that Ukraine has achieved success on the battlefield. “They still believe in Russian propaganda and think it’s not tanks, it’s all staged,” he said. The US-supplied Javelin anti-tank missiles “work well”, he said with a laugh.
Others examining the vehicles were contemplative about what happened on the shoulder of this road. Ukrainian soldiers who reported details to reporters on an earlier visit said one of the vehicles, a T-72 tank, was destroyed with an RPG from a tree-lined stretch of road on the right, suggesting an ambush that widened into an assault.
Mykhalio Kalyniuk, who crossed eastern Donbass as a volunteer, said his heart raced as he walked through the wreckage, thinking of how the trees broke into heavy dams .
“It’s hard to imagine how many people lost their lives for this thing to happen,” he said. “I think someone sacrificed their life not to let those tanks into kyiv.” The site could be preserved as a testament to those Ukrainian losses, he said, before bending down to scoop up soil next to a vehicle. He grabbed three rifle bullet casings and rubbed his fingers over them as if they were shells found on a beach.
Destroyed Ukrainian equipment is much harder to find. The military focused on salvaging its own vehicles to repair or strip them of usable parts, but also to minimize the visibility of its own losses, leaving Russian vehicles the main draw for passers-by.
Many Russian vehicles have been removed, especially on highways to help ease traffic. But others remain after heavy equipment has been assigned to road repairs and the war effort in the Donbass region. And it became a space issue, officials said; the salvagers simply run out of space to dump the wrecked cars and other vehicles and have to carve out new graveyards.
At nearby Hostomel, the scene of some of the closest fighting in a fight for the airport, a destroyed Ukrainian tank was nestled next to a blown magazine, possibly fired after the crew tried to blast it. hide in an alley. Some Ukrainians confused it with a Russian vehicle after noting that both countries use many similar tanks and few of their own military vehicles are still around. It looks like someone tried to clear up the confusion by sticking a Ukrainian flag on it.
The news got around and few people approached the float on Tuesday. Roman Diachuk spotted the tank and arrived to take pictures with his friends until he realized it belonged to his own army. He lowered his camera.
“We understand that some of our soldiers may have died here,” he said, adding that he was glad the Russians had been driven out of the area. “We are sorry for the loss of life, but it was their decision to come here.”
In Bucha, the story of a man’s body abandoned on a Russian killing field
Just as the vehicles lie where they were destroyed, so do the Russian soldiers themselves, their grizzled, eyeless bodies dripping with spring rain long after being abandoned by their retreating comrades.
Bands of Ukrainian soldiers carrying javelins and British-made anti-tank weapons moved through the forest in search of Russian armored vehicles near Teterivske, a small village northwest of kyiv bombarded by Russian airstrikes. They destroyed several of them, the soldiers said in interviews, then disappeared into the forest.
The Russians left several vehicles behind and at least three of their dead.
One of the bodies is so burned it could be mistaken for a charred log from a forest fire. Another soldier nearby has boots on his feet and white headphones by his side. A Ukrainian soldier said he was shot in the heart.
No one lined up to see the bodies.
Serhii Korolchuk contributed to this report.