“Why did they kill my Tolik? “: in Ukraine, Russian abuses in broad daylight



For the Shulga family, returning home has turned into a nightmare. “It was a shock, a big big shock”, says Tetiana, rewinding the film of this day of March 31. The day before, the last Russian soldiers abandoned their village, Stoyanka, located west of kyiv. The road is finally free. Half-worried, half-excited, Tetiana, her husband and their two children leave the offices of the capital where they took refuge during the fighting. In what state will they find their villa after 14 days of occupations and bombardments? Around noon, here they are in front of the last checkpoint. A territorial defense volunteer reassures them: the paths have been cleared, but it is better to avoid the forest.

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As they cross the village, they pass gutted houses and then park in front of their vast wooden residence at the end of the dirt road. Right away, “I realized that something was wrong”, says Tetiana, still sounded. Part of the perimeter wall appears to have been laid down by an armored vehicle. All the windows are broken. Inside, the floor is strewn with old papers, discarded cans, packaging of medicine and Russian army combat rations. On the floor, wine from an overturned bottle left a dark red mark. No doubt, Russian soldiers lived in their home.

Three men tortured in the cellar

Upstairs, the children discover the same scenes of desolation: open drawers, scattered clothes, searched cupboards. As they left, the vandals stole the gaming computer’s motherboard and broke into the safe. Tetiana then decides to go down to the cellar. On the stairs, she comes across the body of a man with a mutilated face, then sees another motionless figure, whose wrists and ankles are tied with cords. “I couldn’t go any further, I screamed”, she says. Her husband will find a last body, there too with his feet and fists bound. Two of the victims, Anatoliy Trochimets and Fedir Petrynyay, are from the village. “Two uneventful guys, very simple, living off odd jobs”, adds Tetiana. The third, Andriy is a worker who gave a hand here and there. The bodies, possibly trapped, had to wait for the examination of the deminers before being transported to the morgue of Boyarka.

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According to the first police reports, the three men were tortured with a knife blade before dying. In the photos, we also note that a nail was driven into the left ear of one of the victims. They were obviously executed outside the house. When ? By who ? How? ‘Or’ What ? Why ? Tetiana vainly turns and returns these questions in the head since her macabre discovery. “It’s the same everywhere, in Irpin, in Bucha, two towns next to us where we pick up the bodies by the dozens”, she observes. Documented accounts of abuses and possible war crimes are mounting as soldiers, police and journalists enter townships evacuated by the Russians in the northern half of kyiv. Macabre scenes reminiscent of other massacres committed against civilians during the two wars in Chechnya.

Endless days under mortar fire

In Stoyanka, Maria Prakhofina is the last person to have crossed paths in her lifetime Anatoliy Trochimets, one of the three victims. This octogenarian no longer remembers the exact date when her neighbor disappeared. “The Russians had been there for some time”, she says, sitting in the middle of her dining room where the windows were blown out by an explosion. Anatoliy, “Tolik”, as she calls him, brought her an armful of wood and water from the well every day. Something to cook and warm up at the stove after the pipes and electrical cables have broken. For Maria, Anatoliy was the ultimate reassuring face in a neighborhood abandoned by its inhabitants.

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And then one morning, “my Tolik did not comecontinues the babushka (grandmother) with azure eyes. I got angry. How could he leave without warning? Why did he abandon me? » Maria Prakhofina then goes through, in absolute solitude, endless days under mortar fire. His hands, reddened by the cold, mime the trajectory of the shells: “It was whistling above my head. » A projectile dug a hole still visible twenty meters from her home. All around, the uprooted trunks and the burnt houses bear the marks of intense fighting. “I asked God to forgive me, she confides. I had gotten used to the idea of ​​dying. »

“One of the soldiers asked ‘I shoot?’, the other replied ‘no'”

One day, a tank pulled up to her house as she stood on the porch, surrounded by her cats and chickens. “One of the soldiers says “I shoot. The other answers him noshe says. And now, I’m still alive. » Two Russian soldiers came afterwards to question him about the inhabitants of the district. As they left, they left a box of freeze-dried food. She never saw them again. And one fine day, the occupants retreated without warning. A blanket of silence immediately fell over the village. “I then understood that they were gone”confides Maria Prakhofina who asks: “Why did they kill my Tolik? »

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Stoyanka, still deprived of water and electricity, remains a ghost town visited by stray dogs. Apart from Maria Prakhofina, only a retired couple, Nadezhda and Sergei, still live there. They holed up throughout the occupation in a damp cellar where you couldn’t stand up, sheltering under several layers of blankets. They only came out of the shelter to cook on a gas stove or feed the neighbors’ animals, between two bombardments. Since the departure of the Russians, they have been making the rounds of the district every day, depositing a bowl of water here, dog food there. ” The moral ? We are alive”, answers Nadezhda who now fears marauders. As for the Shulga family, they returned to kyiv. They do not plan to return home for several months.

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