The three brothers were captured by the Russians after the occupation of their village. They were then taken to another location and interrogated for three days before being summarily executed in a nearby forest.
When Ukrainian forces liberated the village and the surrounding area of Chernihiv Oblast, they found two bodies lying in the grave. The Public Prosecutor of the Chernihiv District Prosecutor’s Office Serhiy Khamayko reported that their arms and legs were tightly bound, and investigators identified gunshot wounds to the heads. Suspilne Chernihiv found and interviewed the third brother Mykola, who miraculously survived the carnage.
Russian troops arrive in the village
On 18 March, Russian troops arrived in the village, searched the brothers’ homestead, and found the uniform of the Ukrainian Armed Forces belonging to Mykola’s younger brother Yevhen and their grandfather’s Soviet army medal. Mykola says that the Ukrainian military uniform was probably the reason why the Russians were targeting civilians, torturing and shooting the three brothers.
Russian soldiers took Yevhen into the yard, put him on his knees and beat him violently with a truncheon… which Yevhen had made for himself.
Then, the Russians blindfolded the three men, threw them into a military vehicle and drove them to the nearby village of Vyshneve.
Russia targeting civilians: interrogation and execution
Mykola recalls that they were loaded into a vehicle and taken to another location, a large building that he could not identify. Later, investigators identified the saw mill in the village of Vyshneve, where Ukrainians from the area were held captive and interrogated. Mykola adds that there were a number of men with arms and legs bound lying on the floor; among them were several wounded Ukrainian soldiers.
The brothers were interrogated in the room for three days. Subsequently, a group of Russian soldiers took them to the nearby forest.
The grave was freshly dug. The three brothers were blindfolded; their arms and legs were tightly bound. The Russians shot them in the head, threw them into the pit and covered them with soil. Mykola survived and was able to make his way out of the grave.
“So, here I am, my older brother is next to me, and a little further, my younger brother. They executed him first and threw him into the pit. Dima was shot next, but they didn’t throw him into the hole. They shot me last, pushed me into the pit and I fell on my older brother,” says Mykola.
The bullet went through Mykola’s cheek and exited behind the ear. Fortunately, it did not damage any vital organs.
The long way home
Mykola managed to untie his arms and legs, dug his way out of the pit and walked to the nearest village, bypassing Russian patrols and checkpoints. A village woman, Valentyna Petrivna, saw Mykola in the street and sheltered him in her home until he recovered from his wounds.
“I could see that he’d been beaten. He was black and blue all over, dirty, hungry and thirsty. I took him to my house, helped him wash, tended his wounds and fed him a big breakfast. As soon as he was back on his feet, we said goodbye and he left.
Whenever we meet, we hug and exchange news. He’s become part of my family,” says Valentyna with tears in her eyes.
Mykola Kulichenko walked 40 kilometers to his village. He returned home where his sister Iryna was waiting for him. As soon as the village was liberated, Ukrainian doctors examined him and found two broken ribs.[editorial]After the liberation of the village and surrounding areas, the operational investigative group examined the burial place in the forest. The prosecutor confirmed that the brothers were blindfolded, and their arms and legs were bound. A preliminary examination of the two bodies showed that they had been killed by a gunshot to the head.
“The activities of these as yet unidentified Russian servicemen clearly show that a crime was committed in this area, namely a crime provided under Part 2 of Article 438 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine – violation of rules of warfare with regard to treatment of prisoners of war or civilians, as well as premeditated murder,” commented Prosecutor Serhiy Khamayko.
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) is working to identify the Russian soldiers who were targeting civilians responsible for this war crime.[/editorial]
Interview with Mykola and Iryna Kulichenko (in Ukrainian, 3:40)
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