The blue and yellow Ukrainian flag flutter in the wind. The row of fresh graves stretches far beyond, past where the cemetery once ended.
In Butsja, they have had to expand the cemeteries.
Volodymyr Stefienko wanders to one of the graves.
He makes the sign of the cross: “Hello, brother”, he mumbles quietly and kisses the cross.
He bends down, straightens the flowers that surround the mound of earth that covers the coffin with his brother Dmitry.
Some raspberries and a plate are strewn on the small patch of ground.
– Mom was here yesterday, he explains and starts cleaning.
According to Ukrainian tradition, the relatives bring some food and drink to the dead when they visit the grave.
– I do not come here so often, Volodymyr explains.
– You must not do that, because then you disturb the soul of the dead.
Killed by the Russians
Dmitry Stefienko, also called Dima by family and friends, disappeared on February 26.
TV 2 was present when he was found on April 8 in a mass grave by the church in the city center together with 66 other people.
Volodymyr remembers well the fateful day when he saw the body of his little brother in the mass grave.
– The first 10 bodies were taken out, and he was number four, he says quietly.
– I recognized his head immediately, but could not believe it. Then they turned him around, and yes, he was. I cried for a long time.
So far, investigators have found the bodies of more than 1,100 people in and around Butsja after the Russians were forced out of northern Ukraine.
Volodymyr does not have only one grave to go to in the cemetery. 100 meters from Dmitrij’s grave, lies his brother-in-law, Viktor Lukianenko.
The 32-year-old disappeared on March 5, and for over a month the family did not know what had happened to him.
– We had a hope that he might have been captured. My wife had nevertheless given a DNA sample. In mid-April, they called and said they had been hit, says Volodymyr.
Lukianenko was in a morgue with other unidentified individuals.
– The body was in such poor condition that they could not see that it was him. But he had a scar and a necklace around his neck that the family recognized, says Volodymyr.
The forensic examinations showed that both Dmitry and Viktor were shot.
Finds several mass graves
New bodies and mass graves are constantly being found in the areas occupied by the Russians. On Monday 13 June, the bodies of seven people were found buried in a wood near the village of Myrotske, about 10 kilometers from Butsja.
Several of the bodies were tortured, according to Kyiv County police.
“Unfortunately, we expect to find more mass graves in the area around Butsja,” spokeswoman for the police in Kyiv county, Irina Pryanishnikova.
She admits, however, that they did not expect to find such a large mass grave.
– We thought there might be 2-3 people there, and were shocked when we found seven bodies. They were shot in the knees and in the head. They were civilians, not military, she tells TV 2.
To date, police in Kyiv province have opened criminal investigation into the killings of more than 1,300 people they believe were committed by Russian forces.
On a national basis, the police have started investigating the killings of more than 12.000 Ukrainians, according to the head of the National Police of Ukraine, Igor Klimenko.
Volodymyr found his brother in a mass grave – see the report here
The Ukrainian attorney general, Iryna Venediktova, says they get in daily 200-300 reports of possible war crimes.
Ukrainian authorities have made an overview her.
Investigating while the war rages
Just days after the Russian invasion on February 24, the investigation into possible war crimes also began.
It is historic that war crimes are being investigated to such an extent while the war is still raging.
So far, at least three Russian soldiers have been convicted of war crimes, and Thursday June 23 started the first trial against a Russian soldier accused of rape.
The soldier is said to have broken into a house in the Brovarsky area around Kyiv, killed the man in the house and repeatedly had raped his.
The trial takes place in absentia because the soldier is not in Ukraine.
Dozens of other lawsuits are on the way.
France, Lithuania and the Netherlands have sent investigators to Ukraine, and the International Criminal Court in The Hague has opened an investigation into potential war crimes.
“We hope that Europe and the International Criminal Court will help us hold the Russian army accountable for the crimes they have committed here in Ukraine,” said Pryanishnikova of the Kyiv police.
– Gets his punishment anyway
Volodymyr shrugs when TV 2 asks if he thinks those who killed Dmitry and Viktor will be punished.
– They will get their punishment anyway. If it does not happen in court, God will punish them anyway. They do not want to get away with it, he says.
Next to Dmitrij’s tomb, there is an extra space. It is reserved for Volodymyr’s mother, Nathalia.
– We bought the place next to Dmitry for her. She will be buried next to him, says Volodymyr.
He says that the mother is still in deep grief over the loss of the youngest son.
– She still cries a lot, and often looks at photos and video of Dmitry. In time, we hope that she will accept that he is no longer with us, and that life must go on, says Volodymyr.
For Volodymyr, the most important thing now is to try to take life back. But the fear is still there.
– We will never forget what we went through, but life goes on, he says.
– We must accept that he is no longer among us. We come to the grave from time to time, sit and talk to him for a while. Then we let him rest in peace. Life must go on.