WAR crime investigators hunting mass graves are feared to have found the worst evidence of Russian atrocities yet in Ukraine.
The bodies of shot, tortured, mutilated and raped victims have been unearthed at four sites in and around shattered market town Borodyanka.
Police have already filed more than 1,000 reports and it is believed more outrages will be discovered, eclipsing even the horrific killing spree seen in neighbouring Bucha.
Shell-shocked survivors, some who lost their entire families, told The Sun of their descent into a Vladimir Putin-created hell on Earth.
Police chief, Vyacheslav Tsilyurik, said life changed forever for the town’s 25,000 residents on February 24, the day the invasion began.
It started with the terror of indiscriminate shelling, followed hours later by the arrival of hordes of swaggering savages who casually shot defenceless civilians.
One even shot a town square statue of a famous Ukraine poet, Taras Shevchenko, through its skull.
Police Major Tsilyurik, 36, joined territorial defence fighters armed only with mortars and assault rifles to mount a counter-attack on March 1.
He said: “We knew we had to fight back and so ambushed a column of them in the middle of town.
“We killed eight of them but they took their revenge the next day.”
Russian forces bombarded Central Street where the attack took place, gouging huge gaps in occupied eight-storey apartment blocks with 1,000 and 500lb bombs. Scores of people were entombed in the rubble.
The air strikes on the town — 36 miles north west of capital Kyiv — were followed by withering artillery as foot soldiers moved through the town executing anyone who ventured out — driving the bodies off in trucks to hide their war crimes.
Major Tsilyurik said at least five women were dragged off and raped. Women found later in mass graves also showed signs of sexual assault.
The town’s death toll stands at around 150 but 50 locals are missing, presumed dead, and more mass grave sites are anticipated. That compares to 412 killings in 40,000-population Bucha 20 miles away. Police say the four grave sites found so far in Borodyanka and the neighbouring villages of Piskivka and Nemishaevo contain between five and nine bodies each.
Borodyanka mayor Georgi Yerko, 60, went to ground as the Russians arrived and organised evacuations with the help of daughter Galyna.
He said: “We were proud of our town. There used to be 49 municipal buildings but only two are left.
“They wanted to remove every trace of Ukrainian authority. They hunted me like an animal but they’re the animals and must answer for what they’ve done here.”
Galyna, 36, said: “It’s even worse than Bucha. It was more concentrated evil in a smaller town.
“The Russians knew my father’s email addresses and constantly emailed and texted death threats but we avoided them until liberation came. My father led us. He is a modest man but he is a hero.”
Police officer Ivan Symarov poured out his hatred for Putin after a bomb killed all his family.
He was working with other cops who had joined the resistance when he heard an explosion more than a mile away and raced to the scene.
He arrived to find a crater where his home once stood. Wife Lena, 26, father Vasile, 54, mother Natalia, 47, brother Petro, 21, and grandmother Nina, 82, all died instantly.
Putin’s animals had dropped a bomb on my home for no reason and I pulled at the rubble knowing I’d lost everything I loved.
Police officer Ivan Symarov
Daughter Polina, two, was just breathing but died in hospital.
He said: “I ran into the ruins screaming for someone to answer but knew there was little hope.
“Putin’s animals had dropped a bomb on my home for no reason and I pulled at the rubble knowing I’d lost everything I loved.
“First I found my mother, then my brother, then grandmother — then I cried out as I saw little Polina. She was still breathing. I carried her to hospital praying she’d pull through, but she died.
“I am alone in the world now thanks to Putin and the barbarians he sent to kill us. I’ve no idea if they targeted my home because I’m a policeman but it had no military value. It was cold-blooded murder.
“But if the Russians come back they will answer for this and all the other terrors they brought to Borodyanka. Every Russian mother should know my pain and know that their sons and husbands will never come home from Ukraine. We will fight them to the death.”
Nadya Koveshpikova, 63, watched Russian death squads stalking the streets during the occupation.
She said: “I heard two shots directly outside my house. I ran out and found the body of a man in the gutter. It was a neighbour’s friend called Andriy.
“I ran back indoors but when I looked again the body was gone. They were hiding the evidence.”
It is six weeks since the rabble retreated from Borodyanka after Ukrainian defenders thwarted their advance on Kyiv.
Life is slowly returning as families do their best to help and console one another and hope lives on. Tatiana Tserkovna, 38, who was queuing for rations with daughter Ann, 18, said: “The sun is shining and we are glad to be alive.
“I lost friends, our town is in ruins and have no job after a Russian tank opened fire on the supermarket I worked in as they left.
“But we’re still here and still strong. We have nothing but hope.”
VLADIMIR Putin, 69, is “very ill with blood cancer”, according to a Russian oligarch with Kremlin links, named only as Yuri.
A Western businessman obtained an audio recording of him.
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