Russian military changed tactics to targeting civilians after its ground forces failed to advance as planned through Ukraine. Although Russian officials and state media repeatedly claimed they were attacking military sites, ordinary Ukrainian citizens were being shot at and killed by Russian soldiers as they fled their homes. Targeting civilians in war zones is banned under international law.
The United Nations human rights office reported on March 31 that 1,232 civilians had so far been killed and 1,935 wounded since Russia began its attack on Ukraine. The Ukrainian government listed 6,378 – 6,705+ killed. The true casualty figures are probably much higher.
Most of the civilian casualties are caused by wide-impact explosive weapons, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems, as well as missile and air strikes. In addition, Russian soldiers are randomly targeting civilians as they flee bombardments and heavy shelling, killing, wounding and maiming hundreds of Ukrainians.
Here are four stories documenting random killings by the Russian army.
Fedko family from Kherson Oblast
On the first day of the war, 24 February, the Russian military executed a Ukrainian family near Nova Kakhovka, Kherson Oblast: 56-year-old Hanna and Oleh Fedko Senior, their 27-year-old daughter-in-law Iryna Fedko and two grandchildren, 6-year-old Sofiya and one-and-a-half-month-old Ivan.
The family of local patrolman Oleh Fedko Junior decided to leave the city. Oleh was on duty, so his father came to Kherson to pick up his daughter-in-law Iryna and two grandchildren, Sofiya and Ivan, and took them to the village of Vesele near Nova Kakhovka.
However, the Russians entered the village of Vesele (70 km from Kherson) the same day, so the family decided to flee again. They immediately left Vesele for Nova Kakhovka (less than 20 km away) in two cars. Other family members were in the first car – three adults and a child. Oleh Junior’s parents, his wife and children were in the second car.
Oleh’s younger brother, Denys Fedko, spoke with his mother Anna as the family was driving by the column of Russian troops.
“I was talking with my mother when I heard her begging them to stop shooting, shouting that there were children in the car. I heard little Ivan crying loudly; he was only a month and a half old. Then I heard shots… and silence, and then shots again. There were three rounds of two to three shots. I understood that it was all over… They killed my family in cold blood!”
The three adults died on the spot – Oleh Fedko Senior, his wife Hanna and his daughter-in-law Iryna. The first car returned and took away the children, who were still alive, but barely breathing. The relatives drove them to the hospital in Nova Kakhovka, where the children died in the operating room.
Doctor Maryna Kalabina from Kyiv
On March 1, Russian soldiers killed Maryna Kalabina, an anesthesiologist at the Scientific and Practical Medical Centre for Pediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery.
Maryna was taking her wounded nephew from the village of Kukhari, Kyiv Oblast to the hospital in Kyiv. The Minister of Health of Ukraine Viktor Lyashko announced her death and added the following statement.
“They targeted her vehicle… as she was driving her wounded nephew to a hospital. These people are not human! They are terrorists, and such acts should definitely not go unpunished!”
Yuriy Nechepurenko from Bucha, Kyiv Oblast
The Russian invaders ruthlessly killed a father before the eyes of his 14-year-old son. 47-year-old Ruslan Nechepurenko told the soldiers that he had no weapons, but that did not stop the enemy from opening fire, reports the National Pediatric Hospital Okhmatdyt in Kyiv.
The tragedy occurred on March 17, when Ruslan Nechepurenko and his 14-year-old son Yuriy decided it was time to go to the center of occupied Bucha and ask for some humanitarian aid and medicine. The family lived in one of the districts of Bucha.
Ruslan’s large family had survived without gas, electricity or water in their home for almost two weeks.
“We were cycling to the city center when a Russian soldier ran out from behind a building. We stopped, raised our hands, and told him we were going for food and carried no weapons. But, the soldier cried out loudly and started shooting at my father. He fell to the ground…
Then, the man began firing at me. Two bullets hit my arm. I fell to the ground. The soldier fired again, and the bullet went right through my hood; it just missed my head…” said Yuriy.
Yuriy lay on the ground for several minutes. The Russian soldier left and Yuriy ran to the nearest shelter, a local kindergarten where the teachers gave him first aid. Yuriy returned home and told his mother and two brothers about his father’s murder.
“Yuriy told me that, at one point, Ruslan turned to check on him. That’s when this brute began shooting at him… and killed Ruslan in front of his own son.” remarked Alla Nechepurenko, Ruslan’s wife.
She added that the Russian shot her husband in the heart and in the head. He died immediately.
It took Alla and her family two days to recuperate her husband’s body. The Russians had taken his phone, wallet and even his house keys. The family buried their father in the backyard of their building.
“Today. my three sons are without their father. I realized that I had to save the children and myself. We were told that there would be a ‘green corridor’ on 19 March, but we had to get to the gathering place on our own.
Then, we walked down the street where my husband was shot. We walked and prayed every step of the way. We heard explosions nearby; we were stopped by Russian soldiers. We continued walking, saying goodbye to each other every second of the way,” recalls Alla.
Fortunately, the family managed to reach a safe spot in Cherkasy Oblast. Subsequently, volunteers evacuated them to Kyiv, where the Okhmatdyt medical staff treated Yuriy’s gunshot wounds – in the arm, forearm and finger.
Yuliya Vashchenko from Kyiv
On March 8, Russian soldiers killed Yuliya Vashchenko, a teacher at the Kyiv Professional College of Applied Sciences, Candidate of Technical Sciences, Head of the Department of Fashion Business Technologies.
Yuliya and her husband, Serhiy Yesypenko were traveling through the village of Shevchenkove, Brovarsky Raion, Kyiv Oblast when a group of Russian soldiers opened fire on their vehicle. The couple died on the spot.
Yuliya was 38 years old, a professional teacher with ten years of experience, a philanthropist, a friendly and decent human being who devoted her life to working with disabled children and teens. She patented several systems and methods for the manufacturing of garments for children with cerebral palsy, headed the college fashion technology department, which prepares students with hearing impairments for professional insertion, etc.
Yuliya leaves behind two young boys, aged 4 and 12.
Teachers, lecturers, educational staff…
Among the civilian population targeted by the Russian military, teachers, professors and educational staff are specifically earmarked for destruction.
Kindergarten in Bucha
Nataliya Kyyak, the owner of a private kindergarten in occupied Bucha, Kyiv Oblast wrote on her Facebook page that on 11 March Russian soldiers stormed into the building and deliberately killed the teachers and educators.
“I was in touch with one of the educators. He was one of the last to be killed in cold blood. I haven’t been able to stop crying since…
The Russians asked them what they were doing at the school. If they answered ‘teacher or educator’, they were shot on the spot,” said Nataliya.
Nataliya Kyyak remarked that the Russian invaders killed a 75-year-old kindergarten teacher. She believes Russian soldiers target teachers because they teach the kids patriotism and love for their country.
Orphanage workers in Mykolaiv Oblast
On 8 March, Hanna Zamazeeva, Chairman of the Mykolayiv Regional Council reported that Russian troops had opened fire on the minibus carrying teachers to an orphanage, all of them women. Three of them were killed, two wounded.
“The minibus was traveling on the main highway, heading for the orphanage. The educators were going to replace their colleagues at work.
The fascist invaders fired at the vehicle, which was marked with a very visible, large red cross. The minibus caught fire almost immediately.” says Hanna Zamazeeva.
According to preliminary information, three educators were killed. Two women were wounded, but were able to reach the positions of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, where they received medical assistance.