My colleague Shaun Walker writes for us after a two-day visit to the Ukrainian town of Trostianets, where he found evidence of summary executions, torture and systematic looting during the month of occupation by Russian troops.
The tanks rolled into Trostianets, a sleepy town 20 miles from the Russian-Ukrainian border, in the early hours of the invasion. Russian troops are deployed through the city, occupying several buildings: the headquarters of the forest agency, the station and a chocolate factory.
Their general-in-chief set up his office in room 23 of the local government building, where the council accountants sat. His bottle of single malt is still on the desk, the butts of his fine cigarettes perched on the edge of an ashtray. He slept on a single bed stolen from a nearby hotel.
His men lived one floor below. They appear to have slept, ate and defecated in the same rooms, and some of them may have died there too, judging by the bloody Russian uniforms that litter the floor.
Thirty days after their arrival, in the midst of a fierce Ukrainian counter-offensive, the Russians left Trostianets in a convoy of tanks, other armour, trucks full of loot and many stolen vehicles that they had smeared with Z signs, symbol of their invading force.
The carnage they left behind will be remembered by the residents of this quaint historic spa town of 20,000 for the rest of their lives, and is yet another indictment of the results of the unwanted ‘liberation’ mission of Russia in Ukraine.
In the square outside the station there is now a grim panorama of several mangled tanks, the bleached carcass of a self-propelled howitzer and a downed yellow bus with blood smeared on the seats. Hundreds of green ammunition boxes and casings remain, evidence of the shells and Grad missiles the Russians fired from Trostianets into nearby towns. The surviving buildings were daubed with pro-Russian slogans and crude insults against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.