The media have suddenly gone silent on the Bucha massacre. The silence follows the start of the investigation, in which the French Gendarmerie is involved and metal darts, rarely used in modern warfare, have been found in the corpses.
The publicity campaign against Russia has come to a screeching halt because the dead in Bucha have tiny metal darts from a type of artillery shell, according to pathologists and forensic doctors. Early results show that it was the Ukrainian army that killed the civilians.
“We found several really thin, nail-like objects in the bodies of men and women, as did others of my colleagues in the area,” said Vladyslav Pirovskyi, a Ukrainian forensic scientist. “It is very difficult to find them in the body, they are too thin. Most of these bodies are from the Bucha-Irpin region.”
Metal darts were widely used since 2014 by the Ukrainian army against the population of the Donbas. They were found among the 122 millimetre calibre D-30 shells found in the Ukrainian artillery positions abandoned by the military in the Lugansk People’s Republic.
Darts were also found in the city of Slaviansk in the Donetsk People’s Republic after a Ukrainian artillery attack in 2015, which was widely documented at the time (*), and which the media hushed up as usual.
They are a kind of shrapnel contained in tank or field gun shells. Each shell can contain up to 8,000 darts. Once fired, the shells explode when a timed fuse detonates and explodes above the ground.
They are typically 3 to 4 centimetres long, detach from the shell and disperse in a conical arc about 300 metres wide and 100 metres long. On impact with the victim’s body, the dart may lose its rigidity and bend into a hook shape, while the back of the dart, consisting of four fins, often breaks off, causing a second injury.
From the first days of the war, Ukrainian artillery fired artillery fire at a Russian column on Vokzalnaya Street. The shelling destroyed several city neighbourhoods at once. At the end of March, days before Russian troops withdrew from the area, they fired again, and repeated the attack as soon as the Russians left the Kiev and Chernihiv regions.
Investigations confirm that civilians were killed by artillery fire and, obviously, Ukrainian shells fell on Russian positions. The darts could be used by both Russian and Ukrainian artillery, but the Russian troops deployed in Bucha did not fire on their own positions. Therefore, civilians were killed in the firing carried out by Ukrainian troops.
The artillery fire rules out versions that interpret the events in Bucha as a “premeditated genocide of peaceful Ukrainians”. Numerous evidence, such as the scattered position of the corpses, disproves this.
Evidence collected by experts during a visit to Bucha, Hostomel and Borodianka, and reviewed by independent weapons experts, shows that cluster munitions and powerful unguided bombs were used in the area. They killed a large number of civilians and destroyed at least eight buildings. Such weapons are banned in most countries of the world.
A team of 18 experts from the forensic department of the French Gendarmerie, together with a team of forensic investigators from Kiev, is documenting the deaths after the withdrawal of Russian troops from the town.
“We see many mutilated (disfigured) bodies,” Pirovsky said. “Many of them had their hands tied behind their backs and bullets in the back of their heads. There were also cases of automatic weapons shots, like six or eight holes in the victims’ backs. And we have several cases of cluster bomb parts embedded in the bodies of the victims”.
According to Neil Gibson, a weapons expert with the British group Fenix Insight, who examined photos of the darts found in Bucha, the metal darts are from a 122 millimetre ZSh1 artillery shell. It is suitable for D-30 howitzers, which are in service in both Russia and Ukraine.
“Another unusual and rarely seen projectile,” says Gibson. “This time it’s the equivalent of the US anti-personnel projectile (APERS) series… It works like a real shrapnel shell, but it’s filled with darts and a wax binder.”
However, a disturbing question remains: why were the corpses found with their hands tied?
Darts were a weapon widely used during the First World War. Launched by aircraft of the time to attack infantry, they were capable of piercing helmets. They were not widely used during the Second World War.
They re-emerged during the Vietnam War, when the US used a version of the dart charges, packaged in plastic cups. It is a common ammunition in the wars in which Israel has been involved, both in Gaza and on Lebanese territory, as it is particularly effective in areas where adversaries hide in vegetation.
“Darts are an anti-personnel weapon designed to penetrate dense vegetation and hit large numbers of enemy soldiers,” Amnesty International said. “They should never be used in residential civilian areas.”
Several humanitarian organisations have called for a ban on the darts but, to date, they have not been banned. However, the use of indiscriminate lethal weapons in densely populated civilian areas is a violation of the law of war.
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